John Biehler is a notable Vancouver resident helping to shape our technology field with new design concepts and ways to illustrate an open lifestyle through 3D printing. He has worked previously on a design initiative with Canadian novelist and artist Douglas Coupland, and has contributed to many tech news sources in the city. John co-founded 3D604.org, a local club of 3D printing enthusiasts that acts as an incubator for companies looking to get into 3D printing.

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At RizeLab, we are always exploring creative new concepts and technologies that can bring our passion for design to life. In an effort to learn more about this technology, we sat down with John Biehler to talk about 3D printing:

John

Tell us simply, what 3D printing entails and how it works!

There are a number of technologies that fall under the 3D printing umbrella. The format that has really captured people’s attention lately uses plastic filament as the raw material. A machine uses this plastic material to essentially draw with it. Not unlike a glue gun, a 3D printer heats up the filament and creates an object by continuously laying down one layer of the melted plastic and then adding another on top of the previous. Eventually, these layers (typically thinner than a human hair) form the object. We call this additive manufacturing. Subtractive manufacturing is more traditional in that you start with a block of wood or aluminum and using various tools to remove excess material, leaving behind something that may be a finished product or that will be further processed. One benefit of 3D printing is that since it’s additive, there is little to no waste as we only use the material necessary for the object being printed.

We can see that technology has always been a passion of yours but why the recent focus on the 3D printing technology?

I’ve spent the majority of my adult life building virtual things for the internet. When I first saw 3D printing, it immediately resonated with me because it allowed me to use the tools that I already knew (the computer) to create something physical without the manual labour required to make it by hand. There is something really compelling about coming up with an idea and being able to realize it in the real world thanks to these machines

With the technology allowing for such unique pieces, do you predict that the design community will embrace this to create one-of-a-kind designs for home and fashion?  

Interestingly enough, it’s the design world that has really embraced 3D printing technology because it opens up a new level of creative freedom that haven’t had access to previously. 3D Printing allows objects to be designed and made that would be impossible to make using traditional manufacturing methods, or at least prohibitively expensive for one of kind pieces. This frees the designers to create pieces that would never have been possible before and allows them to truly think outside the box because they feel they are no longer limited by the technology like they once were.

What is a favourite piece you have created with this technology?

My favourite things to print are people actually. It’s really fascinating to see how the computer scanning technology ‘interprets’ the people that I scan so when I print out a bust of a person, I get to see details from every angle of their face for example that you may not notice just sitting across from them at a table. The instant nature of the scanning/printing process means that you also capture people at different stages in their lives. When I’ve visited with family at various holidays, I’ve been scanning everyone who lets me and creating family portraits.

What is your next goal while you explore 3D printing?

The technology is constantly changing, improving and evolving. People are finding new materials that can be used in 3D printing and I find that fascinating. Being able to inexpensively print in metal is somewhat of a holy grail in 3D printing and we’re getting closer to that every day. Recycling and repurposing materials that can be used as raw filament for 3D printing is also becoming more viable. My main goal with 3D printing has always been to share my knowledge with as many people as possible. I hope that they, like I did, realize the potential of this technology going forward so I do everything I can to help educate people of all ages about this exciting technology.

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