Any woman working in the tech field can tell you stories about the challenges that arise from working in an industry that is still largely a boys’ club. The ongoing lack of diversity – both gender and ethnic – in the tech industry is an issue that we could write about at length, but today, on International Women’s Day, we thought we’d focus on the progress that has been made by women in tech – particularly in 3D printing. 3DPrint.com is run by an all-female editorial staff, and we always like to follow the work of other women who are creating, inventing, saving lives, and changing the world through the use of technology. We’d love to be able to profile all of them, but there are too many female scientists, entrepreneurs, artists and others making an impact in the field – a happy problem to have, so we’ve decided to just highlight a few. Here are just five of the incredible women that we regularly write about for their contributions to science, art, and society.
Dr. Julielynn Wong
Harvard-educated physician Dr. Julielynn Wong has been a regular fixture in our news headlines for several years as the founder and CEO of 3D4MD, an organization that uses 3D printing, drones, and other advanced yet low-cost technologies to provide healthcare solutions to remote and/or poverty-stricken regions. Outer space is about as remote as it gets, and in January Dr. Wong and 3D4MD made history with the first medical supplies to be 3D printed in space. They do plenty of great work here on Earth, too, though, by providing people in underserved regions with the means to 3D print their own medical supplies inexpensively and without the need for advanced design skills. Dr. Wong has also designed compact, solar-powered 3D printers that can be easily transported to remote locations and operated without electricity, so that medical practitioners will never be without access to supplies no matter how far “off the grid” they are. This year, 3D4MD is launching a series of Medical Makers Academy workshops and Medical Make-a-Thons in order to crowdsource new designs for their digital catalog and promote universal access to medical care.
When we last talked to 3D designer Melissa Ng, she had no qualms about admitting that she always feels “terrified” before beginning a new project. That’s the case for just about everyone in a creative field, whether they admit it or not, but Ng has created her own armor against her fears – literally. The creator of Lumecluster describes her design studio as “where dreamers find courage,” and she knows a lot about both dreams and courage. A completely self-taught artist, Ng began her design career without any experience in 3D printing or design – and within a year she won the Adobe & Shapeways 3D Printing Design Competition with her first print. While she may be best-known for her stunning 3D printed suits of armor and masks, Ng’s work imparts more than just symbolic courage; she has also helped people suffering from illness and injury to stand back up, both literally and figuratively, by lending her design skills to beautiful 3D printed prosthetics and jewelry.
One of the most-anticipated 3D printers of the last few years has been the DragonFly 2020 from Nano Dimension. The excitement surrounding the release of the world’s first electronic circuit board 3D printer has been intense, with everyone within and adjacent to the 3D printing industry snapping to attention every time the company delivered one of their six beta units last year. The woman behind all the madness is Lena Kotlar, a 2014 graduate of Belazel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem who found employment with Nano Dimension right after leaving school. In less than a year and a half, Kotlar designed and built the DragonFly 2020 – well before the age when many of us have even decided on a career path.
Jen Owen’s name has pretty much become synonymous with e-NABLE, the nonprofit organization responsible for providing thousands of free 3D printed prosthetic hands and arms to people in need around the world. Owen and her husband may have founded the organization almost by accident, but Owen’s tireless work has largely kept it going since then. We’ve written about e-NABLE more times than we can count, and the stories never get old. While e-NABLE’s amazing work is done by a community of thousands of volunteers, Owen is a constant presence behind the scenes, making sure that the organization’s stories are shared, that their work keeps moving forward, and that new volunteers are inspired to join the community through design challenges, hackathons and more.
Jennifer A. Lewis
Harvard professor Jennifer A. Lewis has a lot of titles: Hansjörg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Core Faculty Member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard are two of them. She holds eight patents, has authored 120 papers, and is an expert in some of the most baffling (to the common person) applications of 3D printing in existence. Her work has included the development of a 3D printed heart-on-a-chip; a study of biomimetic 4D printing; the invention of a brand new ceramic foam ink 3D printing material; the development of 3D bioprinted kidney subunits; and a lot more (did we mention she has authored 120 papers?)
Again, those are just a few of the women who are using 3D printing to make a huge impact in the world. If you’d like to learn about more, you can check out the excellent Women in 3D Printing site for in-depth profiles of more of the industry’s female leaders. Discuss in the Women in 3D Printing forum at 3DPB.com.