A tool for the people


I just wanted to express something that makes me happy. I was going to tweet this, but I couldn’t get all the right words into 140 characters.

I’ve talked to a lot of people about 3D printing, across all ages and across all genders, and I get nothing but excitement about the possibilities.

What’s important is that it isn’t just the “yeah, yeah, people are excited about 3D printing” part, but rather that this is one of the few instances where a tool that you use to make something at home doesn’t have a gender-specific stereotype attached to it. What other tool can both the man of the house and the woman of the house fight over to make something on?

Sadly, one doesn’t get the same response across the board with, say, talking about a circular saw, or conversely, waxing poetic about a sewing machine; there are pre-conceived notions about who can/should use what tools in the world today.

What I like about MakerBot, as opposed to some other DIY 3D printer companies out there, is that they seem to get this. You see Bre showing off the latest Makerbot with giant geared hearts, fantasy play sets, blue rabbits, red robots, and brightly-colored remote control vehicles. Go to other companies’ sites and you’ll see lots of gears and boring parts to make more printers. They seem to be very short-sighted in what they see the use of their printers as being, or who their users are.

The community handles it very well. Take a trip over to Thingiverse. Yes you’ll see gears and parts to make more printers, but you’ll also see jewelry, robots, swans, sunglasses, and so many other things that are appealing to young and old, boys, girls, and even animals! This is what makes 3D printing so exciting to so many; anyone and everyone can make whatever they can imagine. Imagination knows no age, class, or gender bounds.

Personally, I hope it stays this way.

Time for vacation and looking ahead

I’m finally able to have enough time to take a vacation from work. This is my first real vacation in 2-1/2 years! I get to travel a fair amount with work (not that I love flying) so I’ve been able to get out of town more than my wife. So I’m taking her to a town I’ve been 4-5 times this summer — Seattle, WA. Land of not 110-degree days. Thankfully!

Between not printing last weekend and being gone the next two, it will be almost a month between my last print and next. Weird.

But… I already have plans for the next item — the results of a several week concept I’ve been working on in order to write both a blog post for work, as well as prepare a deck for trying to speak at conferences. I was going to apply to speak at the 3D printing conference in the Netherlands in October, but the timing was bad and I wasn’t sure I was going to be prepared enough. I’ll probably just get up on a soap box and espouse the virtues of home fabrication from the street corner.

I also have plans to switch to the MK7 extruder (in dual mode, of course) from MakerBot so as to use the water soluble PVA for support structures instead of the ABS; most everything I design needs support and going this route should make it easier to get cleaner prints (also due to the 1.75mm filament change). But first I have to use up all the 3mm filament I’ve got! That might also give MBI enough time to get 1.75mm PVA in stock. 😉

I leave you with some images from a fantastic rendering plug-in for SketchUp (and almost every other 3D software package) called Indigo. I used to use Indigo when it was alpha/beta and free to the public. It is certainly worth it as a paid product if you are using it professionally; I can’t afford the licensing to only use it here or there. The 30 day trial is enough to play with and see how far it has come since I last touched it (2007?). Good stuff. I didn’t let the images render to “completion”, but the state they are in was good enough for me to see it still rocks. I also didn’t work on any of the textures to try to make it look like printed plastic; this wouldn’t be difficult, but I’m just messing around.