This article originates from Women In 3D Printing and is part of our effort to support the use of 3D printing technology by women. The article is re-published with permission.
Lauren is the founder of 3DIY. She is also one of the minds behind Lady Tech Guild and builds the education program at Shapeways as their Design Evangelist. I was lucky enough to have a bit of her time this week for our Women in 3D Printing interview! I hope you’ll enjoy reading this article and learning about Lauren as much as I did.
Nora Toure: Lauren, could you let us know about your background and what brought you into 3D printing in the first place?
Lauren Slowik: I started off as a filmmaker and got a technical degree in cinema and photography, adding an art history degree my sophomore year. At the time I was getting those degrees in college all the photography and film programs in the country were converting from analog to digital production. I learned both and worked in the labs at school which got me hooked on digital and from there I worked at Apple for 6 years. I then went on to get my MFA in Design+Technology at Parsons School of Design and spent my thesis research exploring what the future of 3D printing might look like for the uninitiated, everyday user. You can read about my journey at http://3DIY.cc. Now I’m at Shapeways heading up our education and design programming and I love it. I’m also a founding member of the Lady Tech Guild, a group of women, some of whom you’ve interviewed here on the site, who are all involved in the “3D Industry” as we call it.
Nora Toure: Do you remember your first 3D printed model?
Lauren Slowik: I downloaded a “build scraper” from Thingiverse to test the Makerbot I had gotten my hands on in grad school. It printed fine I guess but it was ironic that I couldn’t get the print off of the build bed. From there I was committed to learning how to use any 3D design software. I learned Rhino at the now-defunct 3rd Ward in Brooklyn because at the time Rhino for Mac was still in alpha and was a free download. Learning that software alone was a real eye-opener. I knew that we had a ways to go before everyone would be 3D printing.
Nora Toure: You are the founder of 3DIY, defined as “printable furniture hacks for Ikea furniture.” Could you explain furthermore what 3DIY is and what we can find on your website?
Lauren Slowik: 3DIY was the vehicle for my graduate thesis research. I was intrigued by the grassroots movement of IKEA Hacking, well documented on www.ikeahackers.net, and at the time I was moving and wishing I could customize my furniture for my space the way I could customize content on a website with CSS hacks like in WordPress. Thus 3DIY was born. It was also meant as an exploration of what the made world might look like when people can “make anything that pops into their brain” as many 3D printing advocates like to say. How weird will things start to look when we aren’t constrained? I like to think they’ll get real weird. I have lots of other ideas for the next iteration of 3DIY, first and foremost a web-based app for creating hacks much like the Nervous System jewelry generators. In the meantime I’ve been sharing what I’ve learned with the Shapeways community and beyond.
Nora Toure: What do you think of the 3D printing industry today? And how would you like to see it evolve?
Lauren Slowik: As I write this answer I just learned from my friend that both Pinshape and Solidoodle are closing their doors. The industry is in flux and will continue to be as we find ways to integrate these incredibly powerful tools into an already efficient and competitive field of manufacturing and design. I am excited to see where we’ll be when the software, hardware and materials that make up the 3D ecosystem finally talk to each other. On top of that we have a whole generation of designers who are growing up using these tools so I’m excited to see what a digital 3D native designer designs with the new topological and advanced CAD software that are coming out. Trained designers are very good at designing for existing manufacturing techniques but the affordances of 3D printing beg for new paradigms, new interactions and boundary pushing.
Nora Toure: In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D printing?
Lauren Slowik: Just like with any other technology success is about access. Give people access, both to tools and to each other, and you won’t believe what they are capable of. But the two are not separate. The community you find in a school or fab lab or meetup is just as important as the tools. If anyone is in the NYC area they can join the Lady Tech Guild. We are working to create a forum to answer this exact question in a sustained way. We support each other, trade tips and provide fellowship much in the same way the original guild system was created to do in 16th century Netherlands, now it’s in New Amsterdam.