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Women in 3D Printing
Here we are in 2020, exciting times for tech and massive for the world of 3D printing. With the dawn of 5G and VR and the ever-increasing power of computers, the possibilities are endless.
If you thought the 3D printers available now are impressive, this is only the beginning!
How Far We Have Come.
As a woman who started working life in manufacturing, it is fantastic to be part of the journey into what has often been called the next industrial revolution.
In the late 1970s, mainstream manufacturing was a male-dominated environment of toolmakers and fitters. A decade later, working as a female engineer, I was asked if I worked in the kitchen as my work overalls were the same color!
My response was polite. In those times, women were expected to carry make-up and hairbrushes in their handbags, whereas I usually had a pocket full of odd screws and broken components.
Now it’s all about diversity, a long time coming, but just look at the change in the technical landscape. Manufacturing has become far more exciting and cleaner in many respects.
The technology available is more appealing, and the learning very much accessible, yet in 2018, according to the Diversity Report from ‘Women in 3D Printing,’ only 13% of the additive manufacturing workforce were female. So, what is the underlying issue?
Let’s take a look at 3D printing and the women who work with this technology.
There are so many ways into the space of 3D printing. The women below come from all kinds of backgrounds, some chose it, some stumbled into it, but none appear to regret their choices and all champion to bring more women into working with this fascinating technology.
Technical Term for 3D Printing
3D Printing is an ‘additive manufacturing technology.’
Additive manufacturing is the official industry standard term (ASTM F2792) for all applications of the technology. It is defined as the process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer.
This makes it differ from most existing manufacturing techniques, which start from a larger piece of material and remove portions to form the finished product, for example, CNC machining.
Why is 3D Printing so Amazing?
3D printing can produce so many useful new products, it can create replacement parts for older items. It is widely used in the medical field, automotive and aircraft industry, and even space travel.
What makes 3D printing special is its ability to make objects quickly, cleanly, and with little compromise to their intended shape.
Traditional manufacturing is limited by having to fit a machine tool and its path in the course of the manufacturer, whereas 3D printed parts can be highly complex, with intertwined parts, undercuts, and varying wall thicknesses.
The Future of 3D Printing
3D printing is expanding into areas other than manufacturing. Already we are seeing food 3D printers and medicine 3D printers. While some people think that 3D printing may be the solution to the Worldwide housing crisis.
You may have seen some great athletes continue to enjoy competition with the use of 3D printed prosthetic limbs. There are veterans who have been torn away from their life in the armed forces due to injury, given a new lease of life with new bespoke 3D printed limbs.
What may come as more of a surprise is the existence of something called ‘bioprinting,’ this 3D print uses living cells rather than plastics, and can recreate human organs, we have yet to see that evolve.
Basically, we can 3D print just about anything, from spare body parts to a house, or just dabble with dinosaurs or mini lookalikes of ourselves!
Women in 3D printing
Nora Toure began her career in additive manufacturing a decade ago, she is now the founder of ‘Women in 3D Printing’
Nora initially wanted to train as a criminal lawyer but ended up in the world of 3D print. Her change of plan came from working with an online 3D print company called Sculpteo.
What is interesting is that Nora wasn’t an engineer at that time, but she was working in a highly technical manufacturing environment.
With the interest, the can-do attitude, and the will to learn, Nora embraced the technology and is now at the top of her tree. If that isn’t inspiring, I don’t know what is.
Nora believes that women are absolutely vital in the continued development of 3D printing technologies, she often interviews those within the industry, she had some inspiring words I would like to share with you, but do check out the link for more.
‘So, my advice for anyone willing to enter this industry would be to try and find out what you’re really passionate about, tie it into technology, and be willing to learn. There are new machines or materials out there every six months. You have to go out there, go online, find information, try to visit companies. No matter what you do in life, you will have to do that- so why not start now?’
Another interesting fact is that Sculpteo is still very much alive and has a great learning hub. You may be feeling inspired yourself, take a peek at this link:
Samantha Snabes is my next inspiring woman in 3D printing. Samantha, from the US, and Co-founder of the company re:3D, presented at the Dublin Web Summit in 2014.
This was a Kickstarter project to manufacture a 3D Printer called the Gigabot.
The Gigabot sells in more than 50 countries and prints from pellets of reclaimed plastic waste. For every 100 printers sold, one unit is given free to someone wanting to make a difference in their community.
Samantha has a fascinating bio with so many accomplishments, but just like Nora, Samantha didn’t set out to work in 3D print, she wanted to be an astronaut, and did eventually work for NASA.
How Samantha went from NASA to persuading hospitals, and others to print useful things from trash is a great read and can be found at the link below, one of my favorite bits is at the end, and reads
‘If you’re doing what you love, then every day is a journey, and it’s exciting, and it’s worth it. It has to be more than a hobby. Think about something you want to commit your life to because your time is more valuable than anything else, and life is so short.’
You can also see Samantha’s pitch on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyiZ5fGgBuE
Iris van Herpen
Iris van Herpen is a Dutch fashion designer, she studied fashion design in the Netherlands and then landed an internship with Alexander McQueen and later, going from sneakers to textiles, another internship with Claudy Jongstra. Her hard work paid off, and she was then able to launch her own fashion label back in 2007.
Iris was one of the first fashion designers to really embrace 3D print technology and incorporate it into her designs. This was such a fantastic achievement, and Atlanta’s High Museum of Art dedicated an exhibition to her. Art, textiles, design AND 3D print, what’s not to like! Take a peek at the link below for more information:
What is interesting is that Iris wasn’t really interested in fashion at a young age; however, later on, she discovered she enjoyed making her own clothes and initially made everything by hand.
Dr. Ellen Lee
Dr. Ellen Lee is Technical Leader for Additive Manufacturing Research at Ford Motor Company
Dr. Lee has focused on new technology and materials in manufacturing, her vast experience in mass production gives her great insight into the benefits of additive manufacturing technologies.
This knowledge is of real importance in allowing the 3D print to progress because to make anything useful, we have to know that it is also going to be durable and fit for purpose.
Dr. Lee has a BSc and a Ph.D. in Chemical engineering and began her career in plastics with 3M. If you’re a researcher with a passion for technology, these maybe footsteps you’d like to follow in.
Tracy Hazzard is a columnist & CEO of Hazz Design
Tracy is a mum of three who arrived in 3D print from a career in design and has been working for more than 25 years with design leading brands, she is very passionate and knowledgeable about the 3D Printing Industry and 3D Design.
Tracy is the co-inventor of 35 Patents, her methods are taught in universities worldwide, and she has also been featured in the Harvard Business Review. This talented lady has written many articles, you might enjoy this one
I’d like to share part of a quote from the article link above, which I think echoes the thoughts of many a female in technology.
‘I want other girls and women to know these paths exist and how much fun they are. I don’t want women to be left behind in this exciting new future in front of us’.
If you’re feeling inspired, why not dig a little deeper, your existing experience and qualifications may already place you in a prime position for a whole new exciting career.
The workplace is different now, there is more understanding, particularly in design, that great design often comes from looking into both the male and female mind, and teams benefit from insights from all. You never know, you could one day be printing ‘the next big thing.’
For more information on industry qualifications for additive manufacturing, follow the links below: