Like many in industry, I find myself quite reflective as 2016 begins. Perhaps this is due to wrapping up my first year leading Product Introduction at SOLIDWORKS and planning the year ahead or maybe because this year marks my the 25-year anniversary of my college graduation. There is, however, one more thing that wraps it all together: a 3D Printer in my home office, thanks to our newest partner Sindoh.
How can a 3D Printer cause reflection? Follow my story.
1991… 25 years ago… I graduated from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (RHIT) with a BSME degree. As well as RHIT prepared me for industry, I had no idea what was ahead of me. Technologies like 3D CAD and Rapid Prototyping (RP) were brand new, and I was quite fortunate to have a role where I had access to both and was expected to maximize their benefits to the organization.
There were many challenges, however. Early 3D modeling was expensive, hard, often it would take many days or even weeks to create the 3D models with all the geometry details needed. Early RP machines were also very expensive to acquire and operate, and quite challenging to get positive results. The goal of producing “REAL” things was tenuous at best, but like any other “early adopter” of a new technology, I was fortunate to have the opportunity and backing to push boundaries for results – and did. You can see an example of this project here.
Spending the past 17 years of my career at SOLIDWORKS, I’ve remained loosely connected to the 3D printing world. I’ve watched as it evolved from rapid prototyping to 3D printing. I’ve seen the use cases split… rapid prototyping, concept modeling, functional prototypes, tooling, and additive manufacturing. Even niche applications for medical, dental, carbon fiber, and more! I honestly hadn’t given 3D printing much thought until… that’s right… the 3DWOX showed up.
That’s when it hit me.
I unboxed it, set it on a desk and plugged it in, connected it to WIFI, loaded up the software, and was printing my first part in under an hour. This first model was a download, something my 4-year-old daughter liked, and captured her attention. Mission accomplished; she must have watched it print for 30 minutes and came back to check on it often. Now, while it’s fun to find things other people have created and shared, what’s really cool is making something yourself.
The first project: fix the dollhouse bath tub. While not overly challenging, I made the mistake of tackling this project with friends and their kids watching. Let me tell you, my modeling speed for that bath tub was full on “model mania” winning. Once finished, it was printing just a few minutes later… about eight hours to print… FANTASTIC… which was promptly greeted by my daughter “that’s going to take FOREVER”… reality!!!
Back to the beginning…
I started this with how “a RELENTLESS focus on user experience” drives an industry. User experience, coupled with incredible modeling power, is the driving force behind how things are designed and built, because while it’s fun and novel to make your first 3D-printed parts, everyone ultimately wants to design and build their own things. They want it to look amazing! They want to do it fast! SOLIDWORKS brings this to everyone who tries it! SOLIDWORKS makes the complex easy to model. Challenging draft, complex fillets, curvature control, snaps, lips, ribs, and so on… all easy with SOLIDWORKS.
While the world of 3D printing continues to evolve, it’s no secret that the end and ultimate goal is to print REAL THINGS. REAL THINGS require real and complex modeling. This is where SOLIDWORKS excels – modeling REAL THINGS and getting them built. While the journey is far from over, and SOLIDWORKS can always be faster, easier, and more powerful, it’s amazing to see all the great designs that happen in our community. With the power of SOLIDWORKS and great partners like Sindoh, our users have the ability to push their design limits every day, try new things, watch them come to life, and know that everything they want to do is well within their reach – and at the end of their mouse pointer.