Making is fun. No it's not.
The maker and the seller discuss their strengths two years into their 3D scanning and printing business. The Chord meets with Digitize Designs at their office. Among other projects, they’re in the midst of scanning furniture for augmented reality (AR) applications.
What is it about your work that keeps you here late at night, other than the demand from clients.
Bo: I love my job. I think what we do is super cool and very innovative. All of our projects vary day-to-day. We hit so many different industries, it's always something different. We always have to stay on top of technology, which is exciting for me. I tend to nerd out about the new and upcoming stuff, so now that I indirectly get paid to do that, that's kind of cool, right?
Are there specific kinds of challenges that really get you engaged?
Andrew: I just like that whole process of making anything to be used for pretty much anything. But, I really do enjoy making physical objects that also include something on the digital side. Maybe some small electronics and that sort of thing. We don't get into programming or anything like that, but I do like–
Bo: I thought you were going to say magnets.
Andrew: Oh, magnets are always cool. I love putting magnets in projects too. I like combining. So, you've got this idea for something, and you maybe existing electronics components from Adafruit or someplace that has a things like LCD screens and custom circuit board stuff they've developed. It's like Lego for electronics. Then, I like designing the physical component to house all that stuff in a nice. You know, it looks nice, it's slick, it works well, and it functions.
A personal project that I'll work on at some point is just one of those tabletop arcade cabinets, with a screen built off a Raspberry Pi (mini-computer for learning programming). I’d put a bunch of old games and stuff on there.
I have two sons ages 4 and 6, and I've been trying to get them involved in the making process. Because there is a thought process behind it, right? Seeing the thing that you want to make, it's solving a certain problem. So how do I get from here to there? What components do I need? What potential issues are there? So, I really enjoy all of that process.
Bo: I don't like making things as much, I just like to play with them.
Andrew: Yeah. He likes cool toys. New computers, new graphic cards.
What have you guys found presents the biggest learning curve?
Bo: I would say because we hit so many different markets and applications, there's so many different things to learn. Trying to keep up with that and being knowledgeable is tough.
Andrew: An extension of that on the business side is figuring out what specific industries to focus on, because we could do a lot of different things. So, we're kind of figuring out a direction for that. At the same time, you're also trying to figure out how to scale properly as far as personnel and the right employees to make sure that you can keep that focus.
But you’re also looking at the future since there's so much potential. It's like, how do you properly and fully utilize all the resources you're bringing in for your current focus and then maybe potentially in the future as well? Because we are a small company, so you try to make the best use of your resources, whether that's equipment or people that you bring in.
What about the markets you work in?
Bo: The markets are ever evolving too, and this whole AR/VR stuff for furniture it's so new to not only us but everyone. Everybody's kind of rushing to figure it out, which also means there's no standards to anything. So, some of our customers have standards one day, then those standards change.
Andrew: I guess the biggest challenges for us are on business side, because we do ramp up the technical side pretty well.
Bo: Yeah, Andrew’s a freak.
Andrew: I think he means that in a good way.
Bo: Yes, very much a good thing. Very much a compliment. He picked up a new software this morning that one of our customers was having hard time with. Our customer uses it all the time. Andrew had never worked in the software but figured it out in about four hours.
Andrew: For the specific thing we were trying to do. Not the whole software.
Bo: Well… kid's a freak.
Andrew: That's why he's sales and I'm tech, right? I look at something, whether it's a mechanical thing or a software, and figure out how to make it – either how it works, or how to make it do what I want it to do. A lot of software consumer items out there are made with certain processes and best practices in mind, so once you learn those it's pretty easy to apply to a bunch of different things.
Andrew: Bo's very good at bringing in the sales stuff, which I have no interest in, though I do get pulled into that from time to time and am getting better at it. I am happy to let him talk to all the customers and just let me sit at my desk and work on stuff.
Bo: Works out great, because I would hate his job.
How does your work shape the way you look at the world?
Bo: After scanning thousands of pieces for a major retailer, I cannot look at furniture the same ever again, unfortunately.
Andrew: That’s the case with most objects for me.
Bo: Yeah, it's always, “Oh, that would be so cool to scan.” How I would scan that, how sick it would look, digital and rendered out and then AR. Whatever. Yeah, it's overwhelming. It's weird.
Andrew: I'll look at something and think about how they designed it and if I were to make something like that how would I go about that. I mean, I have an extremely long list of things I would love to make at some point, right. Just projects to either design in 3D cad and print out or whatever. So, yeah, as I walk around I see things, and I just keep adding to that to do list of things to make.
Andrew: The arcade cabinet I described might actually get made.
Bo: And the calendar?
Andrew: Oh yeah. My wife prints out -- she loves it this way – a paper calendar every week and puts in on the fridge. But, I could just make like an E-ink display that’s wireless and magnetic. It would automatically display updates from your Google calendar so you don't have to keep printing it out. I have the components for that, but I haven't made it yet.
Bo: I would rather just buy it.
Andrew: I have an Apple pencil for my iPad Pro, and I could just buy a case, but I didn't want to do that, so I designed, and 3D printed a little case with a flip cover with a magnet in it, all that. It protects it. I can just throw it in my bag.
Hm. A magnet.
Andrew: Yep. Goes back to the magnets. You know, you can put magnets and LEDs in pretty much anything and make it cooler.