The most recent Jersey City Tech Meetup was entitled “3D Printing: The Evolution of the 3D Printing Revolution.” If this were an episode of “Jeopardy!,” the answer would no doubt be, “What is NOW, Alex?”
During this entertaining evening event, which took place in the storefront of PicoTurbine International, the audience was regaled with countless examples of uses for 3D printing. These ran the gamut from the comfortable 3D-printed chair that one lucky audience member was seated in, to biomedical engineering, to manufactured low-income housing in Dubai and to items printed from clay.
PicoTurbine is actually a triple threat, with three 3D printing businesses in one. The first is the PicoTech Institute ― providing K-12 educational programs (including a STEM curriculum since 2008), professional development, birthday parties, a summer camp and more.
The second is
PicoTurbine’s president and CEO, Michael Burghoffer, provided the welcoming remarks. The good news, he said, is that their business is outgrowing its downtown Jersey City space, and so is relocating to an even bigger facility at Kearny Point, a recently transformed industrial space that includes 130 million acres and an astonishing 2 million square feet of commercial office and coworking space, minutes from Jersey City and Hoboken.
In partnership with an Italian company, PicoTurbine is now manufacturing 3D printers in Jersey City. The business was originally launched by Burghoffer in his college dorm room about 11 years ago. Today, the company is working on New Age technologies, forging service contract relationships with corporations and customizing printers for schools in the local community, while teaching children about the wonders of 3D printing, starting when they are as young as 5 years old.
The company’s other areas of specialization include furniture manufacture, including attendance at the prestigious High Point Market, in North Carolina. The use of 3D printing significantly reduces the time of production, and it also facilitates the making of one-of-a-kind items.
Homes are being built with a zero-carbon footprint ― at zero cost. Yes, you read that correctly! “They are able to combine local mud, soil and hay together to build a structure,” said Burghoffer. “Hemp will likely be the most disruptive material in the construction business.”
Multiple industries are being disrupted and new ecosystems are being formed with the help of 3D printing. The use of 3D printing streamlines the development process, reducing costs to the manufacturer, business and consumer. PicoTurbine is on a mission to empower others to create; that’s why it provides maintenance and technical support for the printers.
One of the speakers, Gregory Chrin, founder and internet-of-things (IoT) engineer of Apis Innovation (Easton, Pa.), is working to reduce carbon emissions in landfills. A scary statistic is that more than half of the waste generated by citizens of the United States ends up in a landfill somewhere. This 800 million tons of waste represents the equivalent of emissions from 174 million automobiles. Moreover, a major component of landfill gas is methane, which, as Chrin noted, “is really bad for climate change.”
Regarding 3D printing, he said, “Our company is a bootstrapped startup, and we started generating revenue early with our 3D-printed device.”
The company’s website says that Apis Innovation’s patent-pending device “places every component required for precision gas system tuning on each gas well in a solar-powered, wireless, self-contained and practically maintenance-free package. The internal valve actuator, sensor cluster, and solar panel array allow for real-time gas well monitoring and tuning through a web-based user interface.”
Interdisciplinary artist Gene Kiegel has a completely different way of capitalizing on 3D printing. He is “creating organic actions to show the beauty of nature.” To Kiegel, 3D printing is about “getting away from politics. It is my escape to stay sane.”
Kiegel told the audience that he works with beeswax as his organic material, and he recounted the time when he used 3D and CT scanners to create a unique piece of artwork that took him the equivalent of three full days to print.
Eugene Pentland, PicoTurbine’s director of product, informed the audience that clay is the hottest growing area in the 3D printing market today. Many enjoy using their 3D printers like robotic hot-glue guns. And they like clay due to its nostalgic simplicity; it represents a return to an old medium used by artists for centuries. Tip to the wise: Make sure you thoroughly clean your printer after running clay through it!
The last speaker was Dave Cimfie, director of 3D printer sales at Cimquest (Branchburg). With 20 years of industry experience under his belt, Cimfie said that industry innovation over the last few years dwarfs the entire three decades that 3D printing has been around.
His company represents six different printer manufacturers. To Cimfie, the “F” word in 3-D printing is “fascinating.” “The 3D printer is another tool, and part of the manufacturing process for many,” he said.
Cimfie presented numerous PowerPoint slides highlighting the many ways printers are being utilized today. A few of the most noteworthy ones were:
- Topographical maps for the military
- 3-D organ models so surgeons can practice before they cut you open
- Molding and casting
- Conformal cooling for injection molding
- Rocket fuel nozzles
The next Jersey City Tech Meetup will explore the cannabis (aka “cannabiz”) industry in New Jersey. Titled “Green Rush: The Future of Cannabiz in New Jersey,” it’s slated for April 16 at 6 p.m., at the Zeppelin Hall beer garden, 88 Liberty View Drive, in Jersey City.