Over fall break two ESTEEM students, Evan Doney and Kate Bussey, had the opportunity to attend a 3D Printing Conference in Brussels, Belgium. Below are their reflections from this unique experience and opportunity to "Get Out of the Bulding."
After an incredible week in Europe, it’s time for us to head back to the states. A few times we contemplated staying forever, but we miss buying things in bulk and our ESTEEM theses are clamoring for attention. Along our journey, we’ve met professors, inventors, CEOs and entrepreneurs, and the lessons we’ve learned couldn’t have been more valuable both to our professional and personal development. As we take our last day to reflect on the trip, we thought it would be appropriate to write down some of our favorite interactions:
Conference Day 1, Public Day (Brussels, Belgium): The jet lag hit us pretty hard, but the excitement of the conference (and strong European coffee) helped us to be energetic and ready to meet the industry experts from other booths and conference goers who were curious about ESTEEM. We met so many people it was hard to keep track! The highlights were a few students whose eyes lit up when we told them they could have the chance to study in the states and a local entrepreneur who asked, after we told him some students work on international projects, “How many can I have?”
We were grateful for all the preparation with our 3 minute theses we had this summer and our elevator pitches we worked on in Professor O’Rourke’s business presentation class. This practice really paid off as we were sharing our backgrounds and thesis projects with many individuals, some of whose first language was often not English.
Conference Day 2, Industry Day (Brussels, Belgium): After an exciting first day with the public, we were thrilled to have another day to spend more time with the industry experts. We learned a great deal from industry presentations ranging in topic from 3D-Printing artifacts for museums to the newest software in 3D-Printing. The keynote speakers were CEO of NETFABB, Alexander Oster, and Professor Kruth of KU Leuven. Both talks lectures were inspiring. Mr. Oster is working hard to launch a new 3D-printing software to streamline the entire process from design to final print. Not only did Professor Kruth help invent the original 3D-Printing concept, he is still driving its growth today through new companies. His University, KU Leuven, has an incredible Technology Transfer department that has partnered with many industries and has one of the highest research commercialization rates in all of Europe and the world.
Meeting Inventor Kai Parthy (Cologne, Germany): Kai is the quintessential inventor/entrepreneur. He agreed to have a breakfast with us after refusing to allow us to see his ‘secret lab.’ Initially a little cautious to tell us much about his work, he warmed up over the course of the conversation to tell us about his inventions and work process. Kai has invented an astounding number of custom and useful 3D-printable filaments that he sells to the industry. He shared with us his story of idea, invention, and iteration. Additionally, he told us about the struggles and triumphs he has had as a small business owner! From supply chain management, to research and development on a budget to intellectual property protection, we could see our business model canvas class in action! Kai was generous to give us samples of quite a few of his invented materials (some that aren’t even for sale yet!), we’re exited to test them in the lab back at Notre Dame.
Attending the AddLab Master Class (Eindhoven, Netherlands): After a scenic drive, we entered the industrial town of Eindhoven. We arrived just in time for Dutch Design Week, a week famously dedicated to creating the best products and services in the world (the Dutch take this very seriously). As part of the week, a number of the top research institutions and companies were putting on classes and conferences. We attended a “MasterClass” at the AddLab, a metal 3D-Printing specialist. It was fascinating hearing about the incredible uses 3D-printing has seen in many industries; an example being a consulting project for Phillips lighting to reduce product lose due to shipping damage. Designing for and taking full advantage of the benefits of 3DP is something that is top-of-mind for these people, and the payoffs are incredible! They were also kind enough to give us a private tour of their lab where we were fortunate to see some metal 3D-printing in action.
Commercial 3D-Printing Shop (Amsterdam, Netherlands): Tucked in a shopping district of Amsterdam, we had the chance to meet a 3D-Printing entrepreneur of another type. Instead of selling 3D-Printers, he sold 3D-Printed goods! He had two 3D-Printers in his shop that he ran constantly, making a wide variety of Amsterdam related memorabilia. He said that 3D-Printing allowed him to respond to supply and demand a lot more easily than other shops in the area – when one item was popular, he simply printed more. Open for two years, ‘Printed in Space’ impressed us as innovative and unique.
3D-Printed Canal House (Amsterdam, Netherlands): Our final 3D-Printing stop on the trip was also the grandest: a 3D-Printed house! (well, almost). In the northern industrial district of Amsterdam, a Dutch architecture firm is working on one of the most ambitious uses of 3D-Printing to date: printing a canal house. As customizability of new homes is becoming more and more expensive, DUS is attempting to build software and giant 3D-Printers that can allow anyone to design a home and print it! Still in early stages and definitely research, the project was incredible to see, and often receives visits from Obama and other dignitaries in The Netherlands. We can’t wait to see where they are with their research and development in two years.
We cannot begin to express our gratitude for the support from the Nanovic Institute and the ESTEEM program for this incredible opportunity. This has been a trip of a lifetime both professionally and personally. We can’t think of a better way to learn about global entrepreneurship with a direct correlation to our ESTEEM thesis projects.