Kees de Ligt

The curious mind of 3DCase

  • Written by Sander van Geelen
    Feb 10, 2016

Ever since he was a young boy growing up in the southeast of the Netherlands, Kees de Ligt – known as 3DCase in the community – has loved being hands-on with technology. From his childhood, he remembers having a big interest in engineering, science, and exploring.

Kees with his dog
Kees in the Precious Plastic workshop

The first toys he had were objects of curiosity and he promptly took them apart to find out what made them tick. As he grew, his toys become a little more complicated and he became an expert in repairing machinery and vehicles from the local rural area. “I like to make things simple, there’s always plenty of time to make things complicated.”

He soon got his hands on of those magical things called ‘a computer’ back when they were first in store. His first computer was a Commodore Vic20 and later a Commodore 64. In those days you could record what we now call ’apps’ straight from the radio. There was no internet as we now know it yet, so digital data was being distributed audibly over the radio waves with low and high pitches that could be recorded onto a cassette. Sharing disks came later!

I like to make things simple, there’s always plenty of time to make things complicated.

After finishing his mechanical engineering studies, Kees started working at Philip Morris which later turned into an agricultural machinery factory. Kees was given the opportunity to go and explore the world completing repairs and demos, and of course, he jumped at the chance. Growing older and wiser Kees settled down to have kids and he made a decision to stay at home to spend more time with them. It was this decision that led him to forge a new career as a designer/constructor. This started with an old-fashioned pen and ruler, but they were soon replaced by the first CAD modeling tools around 1995.

Kees DIY Ultimaker Original
Kees with his Ultimaker Original

Sadly though, Kees suffered a hearing injury in 2012 which bound him to his home. But using this to his advantage Kees decided to try out a new technology: 3D printing. Already familiar with CAD modeling, it seemed like a natural step for him. After doing a bit of research about what was available, Kees opted for the reliable and fast Ultimaker Original DIY kit. It also gave him the opportunity to build it himself – which naturally Kees loved! Additionally, there was an active community where he could share his own experiences and learn from other users as well.

The premise of the project all revolved around the synergy between construction, globalization and digital fabrication which had never been possible before.

Project Egg

At the end of 2013, Kees read about Project Egg on the Ultimaker forum. It was a community-sourced construction project where users from around the world could contribute by printing, and in turn ‘adopting’, a stone that became part of a jaw-dropping art installation. The premise of the project all revolved around the synergy between construction, globalization and digital fabrication which had never been possible before. People could literally print a 3D stone on their 3D printer and send it back to the ‘constructor’, Michiel van der Kley. This led to an amazing structure which went on to be marveled all around the world. As you might expect, Kees 3D printed a stone for Project Egg, but as he was about to send it in the post, he noticed Michiel lived just around the corner. So instead, he decided to drop it off himself and stayed for a coffee and a chat. One coffee turned into many and Kees found himself becoming a valuable volunteer in the project. 10 months later, he’d played a key part in the completion of Project Egg. The results speak for themselves!

Project Egg Pieces
Building Project Egg
Project Egg under construction

Project Egg Interior
Full Project Egg
Finished project Egg

In the end, Project Egg’s workshop had six Ultimakers to help print five thousand of the building bricks. Kees tuned these Ultimakers to run as fast and reliably as possible. It was quite a challenge, but one that Kees relished.

Precious Plastic

Kees and his shredding machine
Kees and the Precious Plastic extruder

After Project Egg was complete, Kees began to look for another project to apply his 3D printing knowledge to. It was then that he ran into Dave Hakkens who runs Precious Plastic: an open source initiative to help make recycling more accessible for everyone. The aim was to take recycled plastic and turn it into usable shreds, then turn those into filament for 3D printing. And this brings us up to the present day: Kees is currently working at Precious Plastic two days a week, researching and developing ideas for new prototypes. Currently, he’s working on the shredder, which has proven to be very tricky. But this hasn’t deterred him – in fact, Precious Plastic has set a goal to have the files and documents available this winter.

Kees is aware of the challenges home recycling has and transforming shreds into a reliable string of filament. But being a true maker, Kees' motto is: “We have to keep trying, playing and experimenting. It’s only by failing that we’ll be successful.”

Shredding machine
Making new filament
Creating recycled filament

We have to keep trying, playing and experimenting. It’s only by failing that we’ll be successful.

When Kees is not busy pushing the boundaries of his Ultimaker Original, exploring the definition of digital fabrication or trying to make the world a better place through recycling, he works at a makerspace in a technical school. Is there no end to this maker’s talents?

When I asked Kees what project he would like to undertake in the future, he preferred one of two directions. Either he’ll get involved with e-Nable, making prosthetic hand devices for kids. Or he'll work on a project that pushes the boundaries of materials – for example, 3D printing with concrete or other groundbreaking materials. Printing with concrete? Watch this space!

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