A peek behind 10 years of 3d printing by Janne Kyttanen

    FOC general  28.Sep.2010

    Right after his graduation from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, Janne Kyttanen founded Freedom Of Creation (FOC) in Helsinki, June 2000. The plan was bold: Start a company which would change the way all products were produced. Ship only data around the world in the form of 3D files and produce all products locally through 3D printing technologies…and do this with no investments, just sit behind the computer and work from the sofa …erhm..right:-)

    “If I would have known what I was really getting into, I probably would have made different plans. But then again, the most valuable lesson I learned from my shrink is that there is no other way to learn except by doing. So making different plans would probably not have worked out anyway. Since I am a designer, the first 10 years has been a “learn from hard knocks” about all aspects needed to run a company and about what kind of people will contribute to the company’s success… Especially when creating something nobody has ever done before and that the market is not directly requesting. In the short term, it made absolutely no business sense to begin what we started. The running joke inside FOC is that 10 years ago we were 20 years too early. Regardless of the lack of any logic based on the traditional business manufacturing model, the foundation of the company ran purely on the passion to create a global design platform from which all creative freedoms that your heart could desire would become a reality.

    During the last 10 years I have done so many things that it is quite difficult to figure out the most important moments of these 10 years of work. I have created thousands and thousands of 3D files, of which several hundred have turned into real products. We have had countless exhibitions, publications, awards and all other kinds of media attention all over the world. Nevertheless, I feel we have only been doing some groundwork and preparing ourselves for a big accelaration, which is bound to happen to the industry we have been in the forefront of creating. Many of the products have been selected for permanent museum collections around the world, such as the MOMA in New York, and we have already sold products and projects in over 25 countries. Over the last 10 years I have saved every single personal business contact, which now number over twenty thousand, and it is rewarding to see the ever increasing numbers of people and companies whose interest grows in these technologies that we have helped to develop and commercialize.

    I would like to steal this portion of our website to thank all the people who have helped us to make this a success. I especially want to thank my business partners, who had the faith to look beyond their comfort zone and step into the unknown. I also want to thank Jiri for founding FOC in Amsterdam together with me, at a time when we for sure were too early with this. Regardless of the very idealistic dream we all share at FOC, we realized very early on that there were countless companies who shared our vision of the future and many of them we have ended up working together with, collaborated one way or the other or just have become friends in this fabulous creative world. Each day is becoming ever more busy and we are proud and thankful for the hundreds of emails and calls we receive each day. Thank you all for your support of our dream and contributing to our success and a future, full of Freedom Of Creation.

    Below are some of the memorable moments from the last decade in random order and timelines.”

    Most memorable publication
    Difficult to say whether it is the cover of the TIME and being part of their 100 most influential creative minds or the first publication in Playboy 2003.

    Most memorable exhibition
    Our US launch was planned during the ICFF in New York 2003. One day before our big show, the biggest black out in the US history occurred. Obviously there was no show and we were forced to just sip warm beer in Central Park.

    Most memorable legal aid
    I owe Eduard a lot. Thanks!

    Most memorable project
    I have a memory of a goldfish, so the latest is always most fresh in the mind


    Most memorable photo-shoot
    No words…

    Most memorable product
    Lily.MGX has become an iconic piece for 3D printed design products in the world. This light was also part of the basis of starting up the .*MGX label together with Materialise 2002. My plan with this light was not to design something out of this world and to fully utilize the 3D printing benefits, but merely to create a commercially successful product, which would further generate belief for the things to come.

    Most time consuming design
    It took me about 6 months and several prototypes to make this product work. Everything is made manually and by the eye in 3D. That was the easy part. Making it function as a nice light was more difficult. Now I can just make it with a script in 10 minutes. 1597 was also selected for a bunch of museum collections, so I guess it was worth it.


    First product
    This is where it all started 2000. 26 and clueless.

    Most memorable museum collection
    MOMA in New York was the first museum to put our designs in a permanent museum collection

    Most memorable shipment
    This was the professional shipment for the first Onitsuka Tiger – Electric Tigerland project. The value of the shipment was perhaps 100 times more than the value of the vehicle.

    Most expensive courier lost piece
    How can a courier lose a 15000 euro 2 meter long bench on a trip from Berlin to Amsterdam? We got our money back from the insurance.

    Most memorable fair breakdown
    We got lazy and decided to have a beer before breaking down our stand during 2006 100% design in London. When the exhibition is over everybody wants to go home as fast as possible. Our entire stand was driven over with the forklifts of other exhibitors and most of the stuff was stolen. Organized anarchy.

    Most memorable sales request
    The church of Nigeria wanted us to fill their new building in Abuja entirely with our lights. I went there to check it all out, but for a number of reasons the deal didn’t go through. I was though treated like I was royalty and had a nice drive through the countryside.

    Fastest project
    This design for an award for Material Connexion, was made during a taxi ride from JFK to the MOMA in New York. This was the only opening in my agenda during this trip to New York.

    Biggest request, which we could never deliver
    An Israeli medical company contacted us for a very special geometry request based on our 3D printed textiles. Their request was so big, that we calculated if we would have taken the entire Laser Sintering production capacity in the world, we could have produced half of the amount they needed. Big shame.

    First holiday
    I had my first holiday last Autumn when I did not think about my work.

    Strangest gossip
    Our new Blackberry cover designs are going to be featured in the Wall Street movie sequal.

    Cruelest position for a trainee
    Everybody has to start somewhere

    Most memorable returned goods
    After the Art Basel Miami Beach 2007, our products were returned in a crate, which was way too big for our door, nor was there any chance getting the crate onto the second floor. It was so heavy, that nobody could steal it anyway, so we just left it outside.

    Funniest accident
    ABN-AMRO bank put our faces accidentally on their website. After a couple of weeks somebody told me about this and we got in touch with ABN-AMRO bank. They responded with lighting speed and the images were removed immediately from their website.

    Worst customs
    Going through the customs in America is not fun. Before the Art Basel Miami Beach 2007, because of the suspicious nature of the designs, all the content was confiscated by homeland security.


    First series production
    All under control

    Most memorable rip-off
    Signoria, an Italian textiles company, downloaded an image of the 1597 design and made a series of bed sheets with a 3D rendering I had made. They didn’t even bother changing the image in anyway, but just downloaded the original image from our FTP server. We could have sent our lawyer dogs at them, but since they apparently liked our graphical work, we decided to turn it around and create a line of bedsheets for them instead.

    Most memorable student project
    Brian has a bright future ahead of him…

    Most memorable award
    I forget the awards we won, but more think about the ones we lost. I still think we should have gotten the Index Award.

    Best hotel

    For our first FOC show in Milan we combined the transport and hotel into one. We went in a camper and parked in front of the exhibition hall. Since the lodge was for free, we saved the money for the parties.

    Best interior design
    During our first show in Milan 2003 we had no budget to build our stand. We decided to go to Ikea in Milan, bought all the building material and after the show we returned everything back to Ikea with 30 day money back guarantee:-)

    First lawsuit
    Victor Portes, a long time good friend of mine, was trying to go through the customs at Schiphol in Amsterdam with Punchbag. He was arrested by the police, because of carrying a “consealed weapon”. Eventhough the design is also part of the permanent design collection of the MOMA, New York, that made no difference. By Dutch law brass-nuckles are concidered weapons. Since our design is clearly not brass, but plastic, the magistrate in Amsterdam released Mr. Portes from all charges. Victor missed his plane.

    Most memorable shoulder
    When things were tough…

    Most improvised action when building a stand
    We had to cut our logo out of styro-foam. We took out the drill battery, connected that to a thin metal wire to heat it up and cut styro-foam clean. It didn’t come out perfect, so we decided to hang the logo very high, so nobody would see the mess we made.

    Biggest achievement
    Time will tell I guess, but I feel it will be about being 10 years ago 20 years too early.

    Most exciting moment
    Everyday is like Christmas. We develop many things at the same time and since the production is all outsourced, everyday there is a courier bringing us some new goodies…based on the 3D files we send out from our computers. It all still feels like magic.

    Strongest courier
    I still cant figure out how they managed to bend a custom build aluminum case in this way. Everything inside shattered into millions of pieces of course.

    …more stories when we get around to it…this could just be endless. It must have been interesting though if you read this far…

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