The Business of 3D Printing

The Business of 3D Printing

From generating models of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures to creating customized dolls, these makers share insight into what inspired them to get serious about printing.


Alice Taylor of MakieLab

SIP06-alice-taylor“I had a eureka moment at the New York Toy Fair in 2010: The Digital Kids Conference was co-located with the Toy Fair, but the digital and the physical were far separated by long corridors and concrete walls. In the digital basement were the folks building huge digital worlds, full of characters, monsters, penguins — and upstairs was the cavernous hall full of characters, monsters, and toy animals. I had that moment of, ‘Why can’t we build dolls straight from avatars, using 3D printers?’ Fast-forward a bit, and we have Makies, our build-a-doll series, which also happen to be the world’s first (actually toy-safety-certified) 3D-printed toy.”

Printer: “At work, we have two Replicators, and one Thing-O-Matic. We do our prototyping on the Replicators, but our dolls are printed in nylon powder (SLS) on an EOS series machine with our manufacturing partners.”



John Allwine of Freakin’ Sweet Knots

SIP06-john-allwine“My dad’s been teaching me how to tie knots since I was a kid. I’ve been able to tie a bowline backwards or forwards in seconds for as long as I can remember. I’ve been programming since I was a kid, as well, which I also learned how to do from my dad. I have a degree in computer science from Cal Poly, where I took as many 3D graphics classes as I could. Inspired by wanting a Turk’s head knot engagement ring for my wife, I started by writing programs that generate instructions for how to tie the knots, which evolved into programs that generate 3D models of Turk’s heads that can be 3D printed. Right now my Freakin’ Sweet Knots app generates customized woven rings which can be ordered through Shapeways.”

Printer: “Not yet! I recently won an Instructables contest which earned me a MakerBot Replicator 2.”



Cosmo Wenman, Independent Artist

SIP06-Cosmo-Wenman“Last summer I tried drumming up public interest in my Through a Scanner, Skulpturhalle project to 3D-capture and freely publish 3D-printable models of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures. It didn’t quite catch fire like I’d hoped, but luckily I found a corporate sponsor for the project in Autodesk. If all goes as planned, I’ll soon have more concrete examples of what I was shooting for — like the first-ever publicly available 3D surveys of the Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, and the Medusa Rondanini, among others. I’m also supporting my scanning and publishing work by selling the first-ever 3D-printed iterations of the sculptures I capture and share. I sell the occasional large-scale, hand-assembled and finished 3D prints of those, and I also offer smaller prints.”

Printer: “A MakerBot Replicator 1 that refuses to die despite my not giving it even the most basic maintenance or adjustments.”



Kacie Hultgren of Pretty Small Things

“I work as a scenic designer in the theater industry. One part of my job is building scale models of set designs. I originally bought a 3D printer to incorporate in my model-building workflow. I soon realized that the designs I created filled a niche market, and my business was born. I sell scale model furniture, mostly 1:48 and 1:24 scale, to other designers and hobbyists. I started my business using my Replicator 1 to produce the inventory I sell in my web store, which helped me get started with very little overhead. Now I carry an inventory of prints, which has allowed me to expand and keep my desktop machines free for development.”

Printer: “My Replicator 1 and 2 are workhorses in my studio.”


Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing 2014This article first appeared in MAKE’s Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing 2014, page 28. Check out the full issue for more!

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