Throwback Thursday: Why i.materialise Was Born

Happy 5th Anniversary i.materialise! A big thank you goes out to all designers, makers, inventors, students, partners, press, and so many more who have supported us along the way. How cheesy it may sound, we really couldn’t have done this without you. So, the next weeks I’ll be posting a series of Throwback Thursdays for a trip down memory lane. Today, I’m kicking off with an inspiring story by our CEO, Fried Vancraen: “Why i.materialise was born”.

In 2012, Fried was chosen the most influential figure in 3D printing by TCT Magazine, one of the oldest and most influential publications in the 3D printing industry. After finishing a Master in Electro-Mechanical Engineering in 1985, Fried worked as a Research Engineer and Consultant at the Research Institute of the Belgian Metalworking Industry, which is where he first discovered 3D printing. Passionate about this new technology and firm in his belief that it could help create a better and healthier world, he started Materialise in July 1990. Little did we know, he was already laying down the foundations of what would later become one of the world’s leading online 3D printing services. Time to discover why i.materialise was born…

Materialise CEO, Fried Vancraen

Fried in the old days

“1985. For the first time I was invited to my girlfriend’s parents’ house and had to find an original gift for the Christmas party. Pondering many items to shop for, I could not find anything that really fitted the occasion. I finally decided to make something myself. Somewhat naive, I risked hitting the limitations of my creativity and skills, but I decided to imitate some artifacts seen on a previous holiday in Spain.

I made a statue of my bird watching girlfriend and her dog with FDM (Fumbling Deposition Modeling), a technique by which you deposit liquid metal paste on a folded wire structure. (No computer involved yet, but a quite similar technique entered the market 9 years later to become the most selling additive manufacturing machine). While most at the party probably were not rating my artistic capacities very high, the gift was enthusiastically accepted.

Even better, nearly 25 years and 3 teenagers later, we have already consumed many coffee machines, washing machines, vacuum cleaners and even cars. In fact not many objects have survived. However, the personalized FDM gift is still proudly overlooking our kitchen…

Today, people play games with computers and express their creativity with CAD packages, i.materialise brings this virtual world to reality with the tools of professional product developers. We are extremely excited to see how fantastic results are achieved by our early users. Most of the examples are very personal items that will truly bring much more emotional value to everybody who likes to design.”

Fried Vancraen – CEO and founder of Materialise

The personalized gift made with Fumbling Deposition Modeling (1985)

The personalized gift made with Fumbling Deposition Modeling (1985)

Those of you who’ve been following us closely from the start, might have read this story before. Nevertheless, it keeps on inspiring me and just shows that we are more than just an online 3D printing service.