Although 3D printing isn’t a new concept, it’s just now gaining momentum in the mass market—and quickly/surprisingly becoming a part of our everyday lives (whether you know it or not). I’ve read articles and watched clips on how this innovative process works…but nothing beats witnessing it happen with your own eyes.
Last week I decided to do some investigating and see for myself what all the excitement was about by taking a little trip down to The 3D Printer Experience. Located in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, The 3D Printer Experience looks like a workshop and feels like a step into the future. While there, I basically turned into a kid at a candy shop—so naturally, I took lots of pictures and videos to prove that this crazy-cool place exists! Between my excessive picture taking and general gawking, Co-Founder Mike Moceri talked to me about how 3D printing works, what visitors can do at the shop and what’s next for the company and industry.
1) So Mike, how did this wildly impressive venture come about for you and the rest of the 3D team?
For me, I came across a video my freshman year at college that blew my mind. It was a demonstration video showing a time lapse of an object being printed, and I knew at that moment that this technology would revolutionize how we make everything. I wanted to buy a machine but I didn’t have enough money, so instead I sourced parts online and built one myself. From then on, I was hooked and wanted to start a business that gave access to this technology to the masses. I linked up with fellow Co-Founders Dan Gracy, Julie Steele and Bobby Zylstra in early 2013 and opened our doors on April 22, 2013. Our mission: democratize manufacturing through 3D printing!
2) Without making my head explode, how does 3D printing work?
3D printing is an additive manufacturing process, in which objects are fabricated from 3D digital files, layer by layer, with various materials. Multiple 2D layers of material are added on top of each other to create a 3D object.
3) What is The 3D Printer Experience and what can visitors expect while there?
The 3D Printer Experience is a public workspace where people and companies from all walks of life can develop and produce products. We offer 3D modeling services, on-demand 3D printing and rapid prototyping services and educational workshops.
Our business is unique in that we offer individuals and companies alike the same care and attention they deserve with highly specialized services. Our team is uniquely trained in various fields ranging from video production and architectural engineering to entrepreneurship and programming. We are also the only public space in the world to have an EOS Formiga P110 laser sintering 3D printer, which gives our customers unique access to otherwise unobtainable capabilities.
4) Where do you see 3D printing going in regard to advertising and marketing? How is it being used so far?
Many of our clients are in the marketing and advertising industry. We have created thousands of custom objects for marketing companies ranging from key chains, trophies, jewelry and publicity items. Advertisers send us either a pre-designed 3D file or just an idea—then we print and/or design the objects for them. 3D printing is an extremely hot topic right now, and advertisers need to show how cutting edge and innovative they are by using this technology in order to remain competitive.
5) Can I make anything 3D, or are there limitations?
Almost anything can be modeled digitally in 3D, no matter the complexity of the shape. However, there are some limitations to different processes of 3D printing such as object size, certain materials and object strength.
6) What has been your favorite experience so far with The 3D Printer Experience?
My favorite experience has been bringing dreams to reality for our customers. We have hundreds of clients that would not have been able to produce their products or prototypes without our service. One of my favorite clients is a company called PortaPure. They produce inexpensive water filtration systems for use in third world nations and communities. They use our services to quickly and economically produce their prototypes. It’s always a bonus for me when I know our work is extending itself to those in need.
7. What’s next? Give me the inside scoop on this growing industry and your opinion on where it will go.
The 3D printing industry is one of the fastest growing industries and is expected to quadruple in size for the next 10 years. Manufacturing will be changed forever with facilities like The 3D Printer Experience. Communities will manufacture goods locally and more efficiently. As the technology develops, we will see machines printing buildings, organs and even other 3D printers.
After talking with Mike and getting an interactive tour of The 3D Printer Experience, I have to say, 3D printing is all its cracked up to be—and something we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the near future!
If you live in Chicago, I highly recommend visiting The 3D Printer Experience. You can create your own 3D masterpieces, take classes, buy cool 3D art…and even get a 3D version of yourself. (Beat that, 2D printers!)
Special thanks to Mike Moceri and The 3D Team for allowing me to explore/play in your shop!
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