Among the open (collaborative) design experiences and the design-Driven Innovation strategies there is a brand new area still to be discovered. This territory is inhabited by few design entrepreneurs who haven’t found a precise theoretical placement yet and can only be mentioned for their talent.
Questo articolo approfondirà proprio una di esse e in particolare della società olandese FOC: a Dutch company, acronym of Freedom of Creation. FOC’s strong point is the use, sometimes even unconventional, of one of the most advanced 3D printing construction technologies, united to an apparently simple and immediate design, yet updated thanks to the renewed conceptual and mimesis potentialities that such technologies provide to its designers.
This year has seen FOC’s tenth anniversary: the time was right for its founder, the Finnish Janne Kyttänen, to explain how from a little enterprise, born out of a great idea, FOC has become a company capable of providing creation (design), technique (engineering) and production (rapid manufacturing) services. The outcome of this work, ironically summarized in a post on the FOC’s website, is the history of the production of new 3D software and materials for rapid manufacturing and the creation of a FOC collection.
After ten years of experience, Janne can boast collaborations with various indoor and product design projects for customers by the likes of Hyundai, Asics, Autodesk, Havana Club, Nivea, NIKE, Rabobank, Philips and L’Oreal, but it was with FOC’s own line of products that granted him lots of awards, such as the Best New Corner Award 100% Design 2003, the Red Dot Design Award 2005, Best New Exhibitor Award 100% and the Interior Innovation Award Cologne 2006.
His works and products are exposed all around the world and some of them have been bought in order to embellish prestigious and permanent design collections such as the MOMA, FIT, MAD and Vitra Design Museum. Moreover, his works appeared on many design and media business newspapers like the “Financial Times” and “Wired”, as well as on CNN and other TV shows
OC’s Vision complies with a sustainable development guideline; the ABOUT section of its website says: “Product lifespan decreases, while the amount of new products pushed to the market is ever increasing. This is not a functional global vision for the future. Most of these products are tailored for the unidentified masses, which due to this fast push to market approach, will only decrease the design quality and increase waste on our planet.
And most of these consumer products are still produced via an old fashioned (a century) mass production infrastructure, which equals to large stock, high manual labour, big investments, long distance transportation, army of employees, etc”.
What could appear as an opportunistic or market-oriented choice has become FOC’s production philosophy: it is necessary to put some barriers to mass production, responsible for huge amounts of carbonic anhydride on a global scale due to the transport of goods and people. That’s why Kyttänen thought it was right to answer to this emergency, concretely exploiting, from the very beginning, the new chances offered by the digital universe, decentralized and connected by a network with the firm belief in changing the world of production and not only:
“Whereas MP3 changed the music industry for ever, digital cameras did the same for photography and digital print enabled everybody to become a publisher, the same transition will happen for consumer products as well and people will be able to create their own products with great ease and will not need to be bound by the selection they can find from retail”.
For Freedom Of Creation, to expect the same experience in the digitalization of music and photography for product creation means to avoid mass production as much as possible, delocalize small production as much as possible and bring it closer and closer to the consumer; at the same time it implies the proposition of a potential platform of products that remain files as long as someone doesn’t need them, through versions that provide personalization options. The purchase is mostly made online.
3D Printing technologies used by FOC are a form of additive manufacturing technologies, useful to create objects by laying down successive layers of material. Unlike milling, such technologies don’t work by subtracting material from monolithic blocks or plates. In view of higher dimensional tolerances and a lower material hardness, the main advantages provided by this kind of technology are superior possibilities of shape manipulation, because additive technologies are independent from the complex movements of production prints; other advantages are the eco-compatibility aspect of some materials, such as nylon, which can be recycled for different manufacturing purposes and simple assembling operations, result of a more and more precise digital engineering of the product.
Moreover, an incomparable speed of production has to be taken into consideration: a speed independent from planning, creation and setting up of production prints, presswork time, logistic process and stockpiles for production and subsequently, of a breakeven only reachable with high number series pieces.
FOC products are planned and made out of CAD 3D software files, like Studio Max, Maya, Solidworks or Cinema 4D. Such files are then uploaded to very complex 3D printers, connected with complicated synthesizers, machines for stereolithography and presswork test techniquesthrough the use of different materials (plastic, metals, rubbers and composed materials, ceramic for example). 3D printers are not the sole printers used since the new HP Designjet line?, far too rudimental due its shape and too poor in materials to assure final products to compete with productions.
Freedom Of Creation’s uniqueness
It must be remembered that the FOC experience is a perfect synthesis of creativity, technology (born with the objective to offer an extreme versatility) and high commercial value. In fact, FOC lives through a mix of sometimes unique factors. First of all, the unparalleled creative skill of its founder (Kyttänen considers himself a “digital sculptor”). FOC’s design is very geometric and organized, and defined as minimalist and smooth by its author. But the whole work is based on a third dimension of apparent casualty: apparent because actually it hides its inspiration under a mimesis of nature operations (Palm Series) or even mathematical forms (Fibonacci Series).
FOC products reflect its founder’s ability to mix different disciplines and to push the limits of innovation thanks to his conceptual realization skill. Kyttänen’s modus operandi is very simple in this sense: FOC reaches exclusivity through very complex tools, yet producing aesthetically simple elements. They are creative products and thus almost inimitable, given the fact they are produced with technologies born 20 years ago at the latest. Moreover, FOC is capable of keeping the planning section ready to answer any request coming from the market, both for ad hoc and personalized planning, customer requested and also technology push, which relies on niche markets.
FOC activated all the possible channels in order to feed communication, both commercial (fairs, shows and word-of-mouth advertising) and digital (web and social channels). Moreover, FOC uses a high intuitive commercial approach, otherwise impossible for managing products ranging from gift and fancy goods to fashion, from medicine to construction, passing through the packaging for various customers, from neighbours to multinational companies.
These elements assure FOC’s experience is not easily replicable, thus keeping away the “democratisation of creation” scenario in which Kyttänen however seems to believe: “We believe in a future where people will have 3D printers at their homes and they can just download files for products from the internet and produce them by themselves.”
Kyttänen’s thoughts seem to contain a bit of malice though: FOC’s founder can certainly be favourable to the ideas circulating all around the open philosophy field, yet he is well-aware that mass open design is only possible after having overcome all the huge difficulties brought by design and production-oriented technologies.
Freedom Of Creation products’ commercialization modes.
FOC’s products are often models, locally reproduced by agreed suppliers and allowing a multiple level saving. One of FOC’s goal is to become leader of a 3D printers technologies global platform, regulated by an online portal; the company aims to reduce the costs even for the most innovative technologies, which according to the law of market innovation tend to be of hard use because of their high initial costs.
To optimize investments means to use at best the available machine capacities, comparing different online producers, thus guaranteeing the best producers and prices to the customer, often adapting the demand on the production time as well (a couple of days more, not months) and paying a price ten times lower than usual.
We introduce here our interview to FOC’s Founder, the Finnish Janne Kyttanen, 36 years old, and a brief bio on his life and his company’s too: Janne got his degree at Amsterdam’s Gerrit Rietveld Academy in 2000. After a small period of work in professional design, Janne got bored of traditional approaches and wanted to come back to an idea developed during his studies, when he experimented the potential use of 3D Printing techniques for the production of a personal design, and he decided to create a line of products of his own for his degree thesis.
FOC was therefore born out of an experimentation for a degree thesis, and its first project was called 26 ring cuteless (an easily printable element with a SLS synthesizer, yet unrealizable without relying on very expensive costs coming from production prints). Kyttänen then invested all of his entrepreneurial skills in the FOC project, believing in the global potential of this new way of production.
Marco Mancuso: Janne, what is 3d printing?
Janne Kyttänen: Layer Manufacturing is a process that allows for a CAD file to be transformed into a solid object. With a push of a button, the manufacturer realizes significant economic benefits, such as elimination of warehouse, stock, and assembly processes, extreme reduction in transportation costs and just-in-time production. FOC is the first company specialized in and the leading innovators of design for Layer Manufacturing
Marco Mancuso: How do you get to the idea of connecting 3D printing to high-end design?
Janne Kyttänen: It was an obvious choice for me, since this was the only way I could produce the design I wanted to make. Let me just point out that none of the products that I have designed, have been technically possible to be manufactured before, so they are rather different from traditional design products. Beyond the new way of producing products, I wanted to create a new way of handling logistics, storage, waste etc. That means, I wanted to do pretty much the same for products as already happened to music, photography, literature etc thus everything went digital.
Marco Mancuso: What is the essence of Freedom of Creation?
Janne Kyttänen: Freedom Of Creation believes in a future where data is the design product, and where products are distributed in the same way images and music travel through the internet today. FOC visions a future where storage is virtual, and the materials used for creating tangible products can be recycled and reused for any future creation people’s hearts desire.
FOC’s work has something revolutionary, its products and services are part of a new movement that is changing the world. The journey of FOC started in 2000 with creating products for interior design. The company has come a long way and is now spreading the FOC’s message to a vast selection of clients in all areas of product development all around the globe
Marco Mancuso: Do you identify certain FOC product lines as traditional and others as innovative?
Janne Kyttänen: All of our designs are innovative, otherwise it would not make sense for us to realize them. We use a unique technology that allows us to create shapes and structures like it had not been possible before, so even if at first sight for example one of our lighting designs seems to have a traditional outer shape, you just need to have a closer look at the pattern to understand that these are very special pieces, innovative and fascinating, mysterious and beautiful.
Marco Mancuso: Whom would you consider your ideal customer? Do you consider them to be a ‘niche’ costumer or a design innovation enthusiast?
Janne Kyttänen: We have so many clients from big ones like Nokia, Asics, Hyundai, Heineken, Feadship etc. to the local butcher I don’t really know how they all come to us, but a lot of it is word of mouth and they just see our work in the media. We from FOC love this variety of customers, as it keeps us open minded. One project can influence the other, give you new challenges or ideas.
Marco Mancuso: Can you explain how the Talent FOC project works? Why did you find it necessary opening a place for new talents?
Janne Kyttänen: FOC Talents is the first step in decentralizing FOC’s product development, further utilizing the digital background of 3D printing and expanding internet accessibility. Following the brief provided by renowned creative personalities, young designers are selected to submit their creations to the FOC jury. All the designs that match the design brief are produced and commercialized by FOC or one of its partners. The first FOC Talents competition brief was created by jewellery designer Ted Noten and published January 1st, 2010, where Noten challenged the FOC Talents to develop a new wedding ring design.
As part of the submission, the Talent had to clearly show to have researched the phenomenon of wedding-rings throughout history and different cultures, and create a design for which 3D Printing and nylon materials were the only option for its realization. This very clear and detailed brief helps young designers to grow, to carefully think of the content of their projects and the need of their customers.
Marco Mancuso: What does it means for you “digital culture”? Do you think that FOC items are a product of digital culture?
Janne Kyttänen: FOC was born at the same time as “digital culture”. We anticipated this trend and have explored and developed 3D printing technologies since the very first days of this new phenomenon. Nevertheless you might not think of digital culture while looking at our designs. Most of them are just subtle beauties that can also be appreciated and understood by someone who has never even turned on a computer.
However, the world is quickly changing and this decade has given people in various fields of life the opportunity to become the star they always wanted to be. Be it cooking, dancing, singing or becoming a video artist, through all the new talent platforms and networks, it all seems possible today. The same will also happen to our new designs, which will give the people more freedom to interact with the designs online and have their wildest dreams come true.
Marco Mancuso: Have you got a partner in Italy?