Child, meet creativity and capitalism.
You know how some kids grow up dreaming to be professional athletes for their favorite sports teams? Or maybe their goal is to make it big as singers, explore space as astronauts, or help people as firefighters or police officers.
Well, from the time I could pick up a pencil and LEGOs, I knew I wanted to make my living by making things. Since that time, my craft has been writing—specifically, advertising copywriting (a la Mad Men, minus all the smoking.) I love what I do: help brands solve business problems with creative ideas. I once heard someone describe it as...
Using creativity to serve capitalism.
It's a thrill—making creative, smart, unexpected work that helps our clients "move the needle". But I've always felt the itch to get in the game for myself. To come up with a product or service that people want/need, to start a brand from scratch, and to build it into something valuable for my customers and, I hope, eventual employees.
Flashback to the future.
Back in 2011, I co-founded a startup advertising and design studio that focused on helping other startups build their brands. We had some amazing successes. Then we failed. Ultimately, though, the #1 thing I learned is that my real dream isn't just to start a company; it's to create a consumer product that can catch fire.
Back in January and February of this year, at my full-time job, I helped write and create SunTrust Bank's newest TV commercial. The idea behind the spot, "Starting Up", was to tell the story of someone in their late 20's starting a company. Our initial focus group feedback said that focusing on a "general tech software startup" was too cliché, so we went back to the drawing board to come up with a different kind of company.
Somewhere along the way, someone suggested making the commercial about a 3D printing startup company. I Googled "3D printing", and then proceeded to spend the next few hours in a black hole—consumed by this fascinating technology.
[SunTrust "Starting Up" TV spot. Try to spot the 3D printers.]
Designed in the ATL. Made in the USA.
Long story short, I founded 3by3D, a creative 3D printing studio focused on unlocking innovation and product development with this incredible tech. And I did it with a simple question in mind: "How can I use 3D printing to push my ideas and create new things that were never possible before?"
I love using creativity to solve problems—business problems, life problems, any types of problems. I also love making things that help make the world better, or happier, or safer, or just a little bit more fun. 3D printing is the perfect blend of my skills and passions.
Once I saw how affordable and accessible this technology has become, I jumped right in and started making stuff. I'm still a beginner to the world of 3D printing, scanning, and design, but I'm experimenting and learning more each day.
What is 3D Printing?
Imagine the Eiffel Tower. A 2D printer will print a flat picture of the monument onto paper—in super high resolution, if that's your thing. But a 3D printer can print an actual Eiffel Tower, as a solid, standing object with height, width, and depth. THAT's 3D printing.
The details are complicated, but the basic idea is simple: 3D printers add material, layer by layer, to build an object. The printer starts at the bottom and works its way up, fractions of a millimeter at a time, constructing new layers in a process called additive manufacturing.
Plastic is the most common material used in consumer-grade 3D printers. But more advanced, and expensive, 3D printers can build objects out of metal, ceramic, sandstone, sugar—yep, even chocolate.
The technology is 25 years old, but the potential for new ideas is huge.
Why would anyone use 3D printing? Isn't it just for throwaway trinkets?
Chuck Hall invented 3D printing technology (aka "stereolithography") back in 1984. Since then, people have used 3D printing in a wide variety of industries: aerospace, architecture, automotive—and that's just the A's.
Thanks to companies like Makerbot, Cube, Printrbot and others, 3D printing technology is more affordable and easy-to-use than ever before. Now, 3D printers are in homes, classrooms, and offices around the world.
People are making anything they can dream up and design. Jewelry, apparel, art, food, musical instruments, tools, utensils, machine parts, prosthetic limbs, robots, even human tissue.
A crucial piece breaks on your baby's stroller? Download and print a replacement. Want a statement necklace for tonight's party? Design and print a new one. The possibilities are limitless if your creativity is, too.
How Can You Start 3D Printing?
Do what I did: begin at the beginning. Read articles and books about 3D printing. Check out the companies who make and sell 3D printers. Browse the online marketplaces for 3D-printed objects and digital files. Take a class, or try one of the many free tutorials on the web. Whatever you do, start making something. Anything.
What does 3D printing mean for you, for us, and for the world? Possibilities. New, better ideas. Shopping at a store, or even online, feels outdated when you can download an object—or design one—and print it yourself.
What do you think? What potential do you see for the future of 3D printing?