Craig Kaplan, creator of the 3D-printed kippah that went (semi-) viral last month, said he’s tickled by the attention but the experience doesn’t quite constitute his 15 minutes of fame.
The University of Waterloo computer science professor first made waves in the tech blogosphere two years ago, when he designed a 3D-printed espresso cup in the shape of a rocket ship and parlayed it into modest commercial gain.
“It’s hilarious, I love when this happens,” chuckled the affable Kaplan over the phone.
To make both the kippah and the cup, Kaplan used Shapeways, an online, 3D printing service that lets users design and submit a prototype for an object, then prints it for them using industrial 3D printers and advertises it on the website’s digital marketplace.
The user decides the item’s mark-up price and is paid that, minus a small fee, by Shapeways when a product they made is purchased.
The story of Kaplan’s blue, Star of David-embroidered kippah, which he designed and wrote the code for while on sabbatical in London, England, last year, was “broken” by the niche publication 3D Printing Magazine and quickly picked up by outlets such as Tablet magazine, NPR and the Jerusalem Post.
“I don’t know why it’s only gaining attention now, a year after I made it,” Kaplan mused, “but I’m not complaining.”
He admitted his inspiration was not based not so much on piety but practicality. His initial goal was to create a Panama hat, but he found it was too complicated for his first venture into 3D headgear.
“I decided to narrow it down to the simplest hat I could think of, and that was a kippah. It’s a sphere, so it’s easy to deal with geometrically.”
The kippah comes in two, slightly alternate designs – labelled “Yarmulke One” and “Yarmulke Two” – and can be purchased from the Shapeways website for about $23.
It is made of laser-sintered nylon, a plastic-like material produced by placing granules of plastic under a laser and having them melted, layer by layer, into a desired three-dimensional shape.
Also, of course, it’s kosher.