Maker Pro: How the Pros Use 3D Printing in their Daily Lives for Practical Solutions

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In the additive manufacturing (AM) sector, the line between business and personal use is often a creative blur. For many AM professionals, 3D printing is not just a job, but a passion that extends into their homes, hobbies, and daily life. This article delves into the diverse ways these professionals engage with 3D printing outside of their work hours, showcasing how a little training can turn you from a Maker to a Maker Pro.

After getting responses from a handful of AM experts, we were able to draw a number of conclusions about their use of the technology. Applications ranged from personal art pieces and gifts to solving everyday problems and even running side gigs selling 3D printed wares online. We’ll be breaking this series into AM used for more practical solutions, like repairs, and the more whimsical side of human creativity—i.e., art and toys.

“The joy for me is knowing I have a solution engine ready to roll any time–I’m not limited by lead times or pre-existing tools,” said Julien Cohen, Director of Applications at Velo3D (NYSE: VLD).

Cohen has worked in a variety of roles in the sector and with a number of technologies, including stints at 3DEO, with its Intelligent Layering process, and Stratasys (Nasdaq: SSYS). “With calipers, basic modeling skills, and a consumer printer, every problem starts to look like a 3D printable nail. It’s the same reason why one good engineer with a printer can add enormous efficiency on a manufacturing shop floor. It’s just one compact tool, a clean process generating no dust and little waste, cheaply, with enormous flexibility for material and geometry.”

“The joy for me is knowing I have a solution engine ready to roll any time–I’m not limited by lead times or pre-existing tools,” said Julien Cohen, Director of Applications at Velo3D. Cohen has worked in a variety of roles in the sector and with a number of technologies, including stints at 3DEO, with its Intelligent Layering process, and Stratasys. “With calipers, basic modeling skills, and a consumer printer, every problem starts to look like a 3D printable nail. It’s the same reason why one good engineer with a printer can add enormous efficiency on a manufacturing shop floor. It’s just one compact tool, a clean process generating no dust and little waste, cheaply, with enormous flexibility for material and geometry.”

As a consultant in medical 3D printing, Erik Boelen helps companies to implement a quality management system that he developed for ISO 13485 standards, among other medical AM related assistance. Boelen’s use of AM outside of work illustrates the practical side of this technology. In one instance, the consultant wanted to address an issue he faced with his phone which, because it typically laid flat on his desk to take advantage of his wireless charger, he couldn’t unlock it with FaceID. Using an Elegoo Mars 3, Erik was able to craft the perfect solution.

“Time needed? I designed a little bit for a few days in a row—my design skills are a little rusty. Printer took maybe 4 hours and cleaning 1 hour or so,” Boelen said in LinkedIn post. “Admittedly, I did make a small design flaw… The plug of the charger did not fit through the base of the stand . So it took some manual burring to widen the gap slightly. And the alignment is not perfect  , I have to lift the phone just a little bit before the charging begins, then I can slide it into the slot at the bottom and it continues charging.”

Otherwise, Erik, who was previously the COO of a company that relied on additive for the production of custom implants and surgical guides, has used 3D printing to make a few bathroom accessories, adapting designs from online. His story of designing a unique phone stand that integrates a wireless charger and a sound redirector epitomizes the innovative spirit of 3D printing enthusiasts. Despite the challenges and messy post-processing, his project underlines the potential of home 3D printing to create functional, customized gadgets.

Veteran engineer Tomasz Taubert was an early adopter of topology optimization, having begun using ANSYS Design Space in 2000 becoming a beta tester for Altair Inspire in 2013. Almost a decade ago, Taubert was dissatisfied with the original handle for his Toro gas-powered leaf blower, which seemed to be designed by someone unfamiliar with the product’s use. Initially contemplating a sheet metal design, he instead employed Altair Inspire to craft a topology-optimized model that he then printed on a Stratasys Fortus demo unit. The final product, a 6″x6″x6″ print made from ABS, proved to be more durable than the blower itself.

Other practical applications included 3D printing torque wrenches, jigs and fixtures, and a mounting block for a removable pergola. The personal stories of these AM professionals underscore a common theme: the empowerment provided by 3D printing technology. Their experiences reveal that beyond the industrial applications, 3D printing is a tool for personal expression, experimentation, and problem-solving, embodying the spirit of modern-day craftsmanship. Stay tuned for the next part in this series, where we take a look at some of the amazing art that these Maker Pros have created with 3D printing. If you’re a professional in the AM sector and would like to send me your own 3D printing projects, reach out to me at michael@3dprint.com.

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