3D Party—the Fun in Innovation

Adam Dales, Siemens Industry Software Ltd.

As an innovative company, we’re pushing hard to find different ways to do things better and better ways to do things differently.

We switched to Agile, have run several Hackathons, and we’ve registered a good number of patents. So what’s next, you ask? So did the CEO, when he talked to the Innovation team – he told them he wants to turn the workers into ‘makers’! For starters, he suggested, let’s get a build-it-yourself kit and have everyone join in assembling a… 3D Printer! The Innovation team thought this would be a good opportunity to give the employees some fun and experience the 3D technologies they’ve been checking out lately. So they came up with the idea of a hands-on exhibition – a “3D Party” with booths offering interesting, cool activities based on newer 3D technologies.

All the employees who streamed into the big cafeteria on the morning of the Party were entertained, fascinated, and had some fun. In one corner, a team of 5 or 6 workers collaborated to put together the 3D printer, bit by plastic bit. This took a number of hours, so the team members kept changing, giving many a chance to assemble the large device.

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Here are some of the 3D experience stations that were set up:

  • Leap Motion – An infrared sensor scanned our hands moving and gesturing and interpreted the movements into commands on the computer screen, replacing mouse and keyboard.
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  • 3D Viewing – A section of a manufacturing area was rendered virtually in a densely dispersed point cloud. Putting on stereo glasses, we experienced the factory floor and equipment jump out into the 3D space in front of us.
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  • Motion Capture – Standing in front of a PC loaded with Kinect, we could see our body movements immediately copied by a Human model in the virtual factory.
  • Google Glass – Donning the Google Glass, we took a picture of the area and then gazed at a QR code to upload the picture to Intosite (an interactive 3D data and information repository for manufacturing sites) as a new placemark.
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  • RealSense – We sat down in front of a small camera that scanned our faces. After a minute of processing, our 3D face was fused onto an animated figure – knight, princess, skier. As the character moved and tilted, our own face, with all its profiles, moved exactly in sync. A raffle was held, and the 2 winners received a 3D printed mask of their facial scan!
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Talking with members of the Innovation team, I asked what had been achieved that day. For one thing, many got involved in building the 3D printer. And also, by circulating between the booths, people engaged with new technologies and brainstormed additional innovative uses. Since some of us created the activities by using the API development kits of the fledgling 3D companies, we were able to see the fruits of collaboration between external startups and ourselves. It was a consciousness raiser about the new things going on out there. Habits and normal ways of work are changing – gestures and movements can now replace the mouse and keyboard.

Now there’s a “Makers’ Room,” home to the new 3D printer, as well as some Arduino boards and a growing number of other devices. And the sign says: ‘They’re here to use, not just to look at!’

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