Rolf Wiegel was a banker. Every day, he put on his suit, went to Deutsche Bank in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and did…whatever it is that bankers do. Finally, he got his gold watch, retired and moved to Florida.
Like many retirees, he wasn’t one to play golf and watch the grass grow. And he needed that pesky visa to be legal. So he started looking at some businesses that would be of interest to him in his retirement. And, like most retired bankers, he picked… 3-D printing. And Bobble-Heads.
Walking into Wiegel’s office is like walking into an animation studio. All over the shelves are mini versions of people and superheroes, many of which look surprisingly like Wiegel, who is perfecting his techniques, often using himself and his lovely wife, Solange, as models.
3-D printing is especially useful in architecture, medicine, dental work, and science and controversially, guns.
But Wiegel’s company, Purple Flame LLC, is more focused on fun applications.
One division, called ‘PetitMe,’ produces the ultimate 3-D printed selfie — albeit without the immediate gratification.
You go to their website, choose and customize your character, upload your headshots and voila! Within two weeks, for about a hundred bucks, a mini figurine of yourself arrives via U.S. mail!
Or you can create a variety of characters, designs, and sizes of BobbleHeads with your own choice of bobbling head.
So what makes a banker want to bobble? As it turns out, it was purely a business decision.
“We love the area, and we wanted to live here full time, and we needed a visa in order to stay,” he explained. After considering many options, it was ultimately his lawyer who found the perfect mix of price, size, work, and interest when she came upon a 3-D printing company that fit all his qualifications for an E-2 visa.
He took, and continues to take, courses in the field, as much to learn and grow as well as to fulfill his visa qualifications. He joined the Greater Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, expanded the existing website and opened an Etsy store, and began marketing his new product.
Purple Flame LLC, can do any kind of traditional 3-D printing, but Wiegel is clearly drawn to the more fun, unique or challenging applications.
He just completed a faux set, including 16 figurines seated in different positions at a 3d printed table and chairs, for a major international TV production, and is currently perfecting his new line of tiny ‘Petit Me’ heads which fit perfectly on LEGO® pieces.
The process of 3-D printing is fascinating to see, a combination of playing in a sandbox, solving puzzles, architecture, and archeology. The objects are created with Gypsum, a composite of glue and powder that hardens and becomes waterproof.
“During the process,” Wiegel explained, “millions of tiny drops come together and expand and build up,” likening it to raised offset layers on a business card. “But each layer is a little different.”
Recently, there has been debate about the use of 3-D printing to print guns. Wiegel said that his machines would not be able to print functioning firearms, but agrees that the topic does open a new area of discussion. “I am not sure about the degree of threat,” he said, “but as the lawmakers reacted so quickly we should take it seriously.”
“3-D is an amazing industry which will continue to change many working processes in the future. But people, unfortunately, tend to look more at threats than on joy and fun. With 3-D printing you can print arms and legs for soldiers or civilians who have lost their limbs in minefields — and for a fraction of the money it costs now.”
3-D printing as a category is only in its infancy and continues to evolve, as does Purple Flame.
“People come and ask for variations, and you see how you can adapt,” noted Wiegel. “We design the figurines and more positions, and more applications as they are needed. Each time, it becomes a little easier and a little faster.”
For more information, visit petitme.com or call 954-997-3183.