3D Printing - A Tool for Inspiration and Creativity

April 25th, 2018:

Ever since I was young, I constantly found myself building and tinkering. Whether building with Legos or Popsicle sticks, I was always striving to create. It’s no surprise I decided to pursue a career in engineering. Now working in the professional engineering field, I’m applying that same drive to build. I frequently use 3D printing to model prototypes and create proof of concepts at the office, but have felt it necessary to have my own printer at home as a means of continuing my passion outside of the workspace.

A few months ago, I finally broke down and bought myself a personal 3D printer. I’d been contemplating it for a while, as I’m always finding things I want to build or new designs I want to test. There’s also the endless supply of things to be found on the internet to print. However, finding time on the office printers is nearly impossible. For my desires, it wasn’t necessary to waste time on professional-grade machines. Rather, I wanted something I could tinker with and build upon - a printer I could use to learn from and to improve my knowledge of additive manufacturing methods. I wanted something that would keep me motivated to push my creativity and expand my skills as a designer.

When I finally got the printer, boy did the creative juices start flowing! I immediately felt that all the designs and weekend projects I’ve thought about were now at the tips of my fingers. I have the means to make anything I’ve sketched on paper or created in a CAD platform into a real, physical object. I don’t have to worry about cost or making it easily manufacturable; lead times and vendors are not an immediate factor to consider. I no longer fear iteration early in the design process, as using this printer provides me with the platform to make quick changes and implement them instantly. I am inspired to push myself beyond the expected design limits.

Now, of course, there are practical applications and restrictions that need to be adhered to. But, the concept/early development phase is there to discover new solutions and push the boundaries. My printer provides little resistance to my ideas and lets me push those concepts no matter how unconventional. Holding a part in my hand, I always find it so much easier to know if it will work, or if it’s back to the drawing board. As a professional, I couldn’t ask for a better tool to fuel my creativity and advance my abilities as an engineer.

-Ben Lawler, Senior Mechanical Engineer