Working in a three-dimensional world; in 2010, Daniel Finkelstein struck out on his own, specializing in computer-assisted 3D design and printing
Tue Nov 6 2012
Source: The Gazette
As a boy, Daniel Finkelstein liked to make model cars. He also had a habit of taking apart anything he could get his hands on. “As soon as something was broken, and probably even before it was, I would start dismantling it,” said the young Montreal entrepreneur.
In 2009, he graduated from Concordia University in mechanical engineering. Unable to find work - the recession was in full swing - he took an unpaid internship at Furni, a startup on de Gaspé St. in Mile End that makes stylish wooden clocks.
And quietly, he nurtured a plan to create a company of his own.
It didn’t take long; by the fall of 2010 he was in business. The firm is called Consult Development, and Finkelstein - shaven-headed, 27 years old, soft-spoken, son of an engineer who always had faith he’d succeed - is its sole employee, for now.
Consult Development specializes in computer-assisted 3D design and printing for retail outlets that need display models, product manufacturers making prototypes, and architects. Its office is a space called Studio 215 that Finkelstein shares with Furni and a dozen other designers - interior, graphic, industrial - plus an architect.
There’s an adjacent studio for visual artists, too, and a small showroom and a wood shop, and next to that a machine that’s the centre of Finkelstein’s humble operation: a 3D printer. Made by the American firm Objet, it cost $40,000 and was Finkelstein’s single biggest investment.
"How it works is, it deposits a liquid plastic on a build platform, and as it’s deposited, there’s a UV light that cures it instantly," the engineer explained. "It builds parts layer by layer, gradually making it in 3D. There are five cartridges, so I have a choice of materials I can print with.
"There’s also a support material that’s kind of like gel-atin that allows you to print parts that have overhang," he added. "The resin goes underneath and you flush it away with a pressure washer when you’re done."
Finkelstein designs on his desktop PC and Macbook Pro laptop, then sends the design to the printer’s computer, which formats it. He can program the printer to make the object’s finish matte or glossy; the base is al-ways matte so that the object doesn’t slide on a tabletop.
Giving a tour of the operation, he showed one project he’s working on: a bird’s-eye view of a data centre that a local client wants to build; the firm is looking for investors and needs to show in an animated way what a typical centre will look like.
Another client, Vert.com in Old Montreal, specializes in arrays of computer servers stacked vertically to stay cool and save energy. A pamphlet in the shape of a refrigerator was insufficient; the company wanted a 3D version, so Finkelstein printed a model about the size of a Kleenex box.
Other products include a miniature chair for a store in N.D.G. that sells them as pendants (from his master, a mould was made, and from that, the finished product). For a Vans shoe store downtown, he made a 3D model of a shoe and printed it as a promotional model; he also printed insoles to use as invitations to a product launch.
"There are a lot of industries that could use this technology to do some really nice projects, but they don’t know about it or don’t know how much it costs or are afraid of it," said Finkelstein, who designs with CAD programs like SolidWorks and Sketch-Up as well as a variety of open-source software.
Going the 3D route helps manufacturers avoid ex-pensive mistakes. Having a physical model allows them to verify the design on screen actually works; before they take the time and money to make a mould, Finkelstein prints a test version. “It reduces their lead time a lot; they get their product out faster.”
To cut costs to the client, he charges less to those who purchase a monthly membership, including architects who need 3D scale models. On the promotional end, he targets marketers and designers; Montreal designer Karim Zariffa, for example, ordered a cat figurine for a photo shoot for Russian telecom company Yota.
"I was super happy with his work - it was my first experience with a 3D printer," said Zariffa, who got the job done last summer and plans on doing more. "We were able to make a sculpture from a 3D computer file, and that’s something I could have never done with any other technique. It’s so exact."
There’s more on Finkelstein’s shelf in the studio’s showroom: a miniature bicycle frame he made as a student project at Concordia; an eyeglass frame he did for a optician; an adapter for nozzle tips used by graffiti artists; fittings for a bathtub (he also does faucet handles); and a surfboard fin he tested himself on vacation in Cape Cod.
He doesn’t do discontinued parts for vintage cars yet, but the car hobbyist market would be a lucrative sideline. He’s also working on his own products - for example, wall-mounted bike racks with bronze screw covers he casts from 3D models he prints himself. He’s also doing a small clock for Furni.
Does he make a decent living?
"I have done some projects that do bring in a lot of money," Finkelstein replied. "It’s just that it’s hard to keep it constant. There is a lot of potential in the industry, though, for sure."
Will he always be an entrepreneur?
He paused and grinned a shy grin.
"I have a hard time imagining I’ll work for a company some day. I have worked for some in the past. But being able to oversee everything myself is something that’s hard to give up."