Entrepreneur, maker, 3DP trainer and avid gamer, Darius Foo believes in sustainable learning via the hands-on approach. He has a strong desire to continuously adapt and absorb new knowledge to sustain his restlessness and creativity. As a trainer, Darius has conducted 3D modelling and printing classes in schools and in the private sector. His Farnix Technologies offers modular design and prototyping services, including traditional tooling and 3D printing. Self-taught in engineering, he also works on hush-hush projects for a government-linked company. Ginkgo3D talks to this dynamic young man about what makes him tick.
Can you tell us what inspired you to venture into 3D printing?
I ventured into 3D printing because I needed an avenue to manufacture my designs quickly and accurately for testing. 3D Printing allowed me to create specific components or sampling of mechanisms, cheaply in small custom quantities. Being a perfectionist, I needed the full control over the entire prototyping process it gave me.
What was your first print? How long did the production take?
My first print was a custom designed 3D printable trebuchet. I designed that specifically to test the machine’s precision and learn about its inner working mechanism, in hope that learning by trial and error, I’ll be able to apply them into my designs, improving the quality and efficiency of the subsequent prints. That first print took me about three to four days to perfect. Five years since then, that same print takes me less than two hours to complete these days. I am not an engineer by training, so I am very much self-taught.
Besides your own printers, do you use other printers or printing services for your clients and projects?
Previously I used print services from Axpert Global, but since getting my own UP Plus, I have been using my own printers for print services. I guess the factor that differentiates Farnix Technologies from other printing services, is our mission to ensure that the printed parts are not only in good quality, but also suitable for the function or application that the client intends it to perform. The only way to ensure that we are able to provide this efficient yet quality service, would be to have much of the processes, including post-production, to be done in-house as much as possible.
Do you have a favourite printer?
My first 3D printer was the Singapore-made Portabee printer, which is self-assembled and the cheapest printer around at that time. I started printing in FDM and it was recently that my fiancée bought me a new model so I could print in ABS. With that, I finished 56 jobs in a single month! As far as I am concerned, the Artplus2 is the only printer around that virtually needs no maintenance. I experiment around with printing different materials and found that printing abrasive materials like polycarbonate on the Artplus can cause the nozzles to be abraded and enlarged. There are some printers in the market that are fully enclosed and you can’t see the print until it is finished – that’s not good. I am now using the Tevo printer.
Tell us more about your experience as a 3D printing trainer.
I’ve been doing business of some sort or other since I was in secondary school, but it was with Simplifi3D that I worked on being a trainer together with Bob, Beng Huat and Tee. I helped to set up the education section there as well as come up with the syllabuses. Unfortunately, I had to leave to join ST Technologies. Why? I’m getting married and need to raise funds quickly, so a contract job with good pay is one of the ways of doing it. I am still available in the second half of the week to conduct training classes though.
What are your views regarding 3D Printing today and in the future?
Between June and August last year, the 3D printing business peaked in Singapore, and some trainers who I know left their jobs and actually became taxi drivers. Today, I believe the worst is over. In my lens, the future of 3D Printing is determined by how far the players in this industry want to take it. The current situation is the uninitiated view of this technology as being the only efficient way to prototype. This is dangerous if left unchallenged, as it would lead our future generations of engineers and artisans into blindly depending on 3D printing as the only option for manufacturing, pushing aside other practical means such as conventional CNC machining.
What about education?
Where education is concerned, I discovered something very disturbing – our kids can’t draw! We really got to bring them back to the basics, to learn to use their hands instead of just tapping away at a computer keyboard. There are many business opportunities out there – ideation, teaching; 3D printing as a subset of IoT (Internet of Things) and drone design.
And what are you working on, for the future?
My immediate aim is to build a below-$100 drone using a powerful and cheap CJMCU flight controller and combining it with a free open-source App called Cleanflight on Chrome so you can control the drone with your mobile phone. This would be very welcome in the schools and by hobbyists. Beyond that, I am working on mobility devices like cars that can go underground and under the sea. There are also projects with ST Dynamics that I can’t talk about because they are defence related and classified. I can’t stop moving or I would get depressed, so I stay active with these projects and plenty of gaming. That’s what keeps me going.
Darius is currently working on an additive manufacturing project at ST Dynamics.