CafePress at #IF13: new and improved 3D printing (3D glasses not included)

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Kyle Inglis shows an IdeaFestival attendee her new phone cover

It’s just too bad that there’s not a protective phone case that looks just as futuristic as your new iPhone 5S. Something really creative, something brand new, something… printed with a 3D printer.

At this year’s IdeaFestival, CafePress, in association with FetterGroup, introduces the future of not only phone cases, but also design: 3D printing.

These days, everyone has something personalized from CafePress. It’s one of the world’s leading online personalized gift retailers. It might be that reusable tote printed with Louisville’s Fleur de Lis that you just had to have for grocery shopping, or that coffee mug with the witty quote from Einstein that you got for graduation.

That was a great gift, but wouldn’t it be cooler to have your morning coffee in a mug printed with high-def letters that really jump out at you? FetterGroup’s director of research and development, Kyle Inglis, sure thinks so.

“Our idea of 3D printing [in manufacturing] is to help better things that already exist,” said Inglis.

IMG_1578The 3D desktop printer is a relatively new device and is making things more efficient for businesses, teachers, and students. When first developing utilizing 3D printing for CafePress FetterGroup, Inglis’ main focus was efficiency. “3D print is advancing manufacturing because it is becoming so efficient. It is bettering the way things are done.”

No wonder CafePress wanted on board. The company’s global headquarters is conveniently located in Louisville.

Lucky for us, this means that CafePress was one of the most innovative companies represented at this year’s IdeaFestival.

As for free samples of this new-age printing, Inglis at the IdeaFestival CafePress booth offered free personalized iPhone cases to attendees. These were, without a doubt, the coolest souvenirs anyone took home from the event. Some of the cases were 3D printed, and the photo inserts were made using the dye sublimation process with a heat press.

Attendees were asked to simply tweet the picture they wanted to appear on the case to @CafePress with #DefyNorm (Appropriate, since “Defy the Norm” was a motto of this year’s IdeaFestival). Attendees were then able to actually watch their cases being printed on the on-site press.

In the future, CafePress could be using 3D printing for everything from shower curtains to bumper stickers to personalized Monopoly boards. “We could use 3D printing for just about anything that’s flat,” reveals Inglis.