Three years ago Elias Bakken was a Ph.D. in radar imaging at the University of Oslo, in Norway. He came across a contest announced by Dallas-based tech giant Texas Instruments for building the best add-on, or cape, for a product.
What Bakken made was a control board for 3D printers. The board allows you to retrofit your desktop 3D printer to make it a lot smarter. Called “Replicape,” users are able to communicate with the printer remotely from a browser, meaning the printer no longer needs to be tethered to a computer. A user could put the printer in her basement and control it from her office.
People are used to smartphones these days and having touch screen they can interact with and I’m adding that to the printer. A better UX.
“What makes it unique is it’s based on a vastly more powerful platform than the existing solutions,” Bakken, a cofounder of the Oslo-based company Intelligent Agent, explained in an interview. “Right now printers are dumb units that have to be tethered to a computer. Instead, what I’m doing is using a more powerful platform so you can have a web interface right on the printer.”
Bakken won Texas Instruments’ competition and received the opportunity to produce a number of his product. For the last three years he’s been refining and improving it, and now he’s launched a Kickstarter campaign to get the Replicape into larger production. Recently he moved to Brooklyn from Oslo, and lives in Williamsburg.
“People are used to smartphones these days and having touch screen they can interact with and I’m adding that to the printer. A better UX,” Bakken said. “You can have a preview of the model you’re printing. It becomes a smart 3D printer if you will. Like a smart phone. You run a complete operating system and have the option of remote updates. Really the idea of bringing the 3D printer into the modern age.”
One of the most challenging parts of the process for Bakken has been the manufacturing.
He said some days it feels like he spends half his time on the phone with people in China working out the details of production. The Kickstarter was 200 percent funded within the first two days, so he feels the market is there and is going to do a run of 500 Replicapes.
Bakken is excited to be in the U.S. market and he likes working in Brooklyn.
“People are saying that they’re getting over Williamsburg but to me it’s still pretty magic,” he said. “There aren’t any kids or old people. The streets are always buzzing with 30-year-old, tatted, dog-walking, art-dabbling hipsters!”
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