On today’s episode, we’re going back into our past stomping grounds as we were new people in business and industry. Reminiscing about Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is one of the first places we lived for a number of years and decided intentionally to go there for business purposes. There’s a guy named Chris Kaminsky who has started Mi3D for Michigan and has a Meetup group and association about 3D printing there in West Michigan. This is reminding us of how we were involved in multiple pre MeetUp.com meetups back in the day when we were there and we were young. There were some of those early CAD meetups because 3D CAD was really new. There wasn’t too many people who did it. They were very, very expensive systems like Alias on Silicon Graphics workstations that were six-figure systems. Your average people couldn’t afford that, big corporations only. Then there came this lower cost CAD and it started with 3D Studio, which had in the early days release 1 and release 2 back then. This was the early to mid-90s. People were really new to it and wanted to know about it and you would get together about all the CAD. We were using CAD and creating models and animations of products that we had designed and that was the real innovative thing.
Today, we talk about 3D printing being able to rapidly prototype or manufacture products without tooling in an additive way. This is the big new hot thing going on. Back then, it was just about visualization, having a rendering. It wasn’t really photorealistic back then but it was a rendering. You didn’t have to draw and sketch it out by hand. The meetups around 3D CAD was the idea that we didn’t have quite as much resources to YouTube videos on how to do stuff. It gave us an opportunity to network with others who are struggling to solve problems; how to create textures or how to do these things and that’s really the whole point of it. When you’re in an emerging technology or a technology that’s learning how to get applied or that has a steep learning curve like 3D CAD. When you have all of those things, you really need to get together and have best practices and have conversations and get inspired and learn from other people and get out of just behind YouTube-ing it. YouTube did not exist when we were there.
We’re remembering even the worldwide web was in its infancy. We had email but it was dial-up internet and you went to AOL or something. From within AOL, you’re on their platform, which is really like a bulletin board service on steroids. You would dial into a bulletin board in the early days. From there, you could click a button to go to the worldwide web. It was crazy. That’s where you would post on a bulletin board that you’re going to have this meetup and you would call people and do it the old-fashioned way.
We wanted to really bring Chris Kaminsky on of Mi3D because we really wanted to talk about that there really is value in creating this local community meetups and getting the groups together and really organizing it. He’s been finding really good success in this and then finding good traffic because he has a great community there in Grand Rapids. We’re going to talk a little bit about that with him so you can see where he’s going. We want to encourage all areas to really do more of this 3D print meetups. It’s very, very valuable to have some face time. Chris presents what we think is a very common experience many of you may have had, or if not, a good model for what you might do in your local area. Let’s go to the interview with Chris and then we’ll talk some more on the other side.
Listen to the podcast here:
3D Print Meetups with Chris Kaminsky of MI3D
Chris, thanks so much for joining us today on WTFFF.
Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure.
Is it already cold in Grand Rapids?
You wouldn’t believe it.
We would because we used to live in East Grand Rapids and our first child was born at Blodgett Hospital there. We know the area well. We liked it very much. We lived there for about five years and by choice to come into the furniture industry there in West Michigan. There is quite a community of innovative manufacturing and makers and designers and we had a great time being there. The culture is amazing. How long have you lived there? Your whole life then if you were born in Blodgett?
Basically, my whole life. I moved away for college a little bit.
Where did you go?
I was at Purdue for a year and a half.
You studied mechanical engineering, right?
Yeah. I got a degree from Grand Valley here locally.
It’s a ripe community for what you’re doing right now, which is really starting a networking meetup around 3D printing. Tell us a little bit about how you got started.
Earlier this year, I go to this Midwest RepRap Fest that SeeMeCNC puts on. They make that big Delta printer. It’s like a kit. I went down to their fest for the first time and it’s the first time I ever went to this thing. I’ve probably been doing 3D printing for a year and half before that and I’m just like, “Oh my god.” It was like Comic-Con for tech nerds. I just fell in love with it and the culture and the people. It brought makers from all over; like Josef Průša, Daniel Norée, and Joel Telling of 3D Printing Nerd. It brought all these people together along with lowly me doing this out of my apartment. It was just so awesome.
Isn’t that the great part? 3D printing is an equalizer. You got inspired to create your own local group.
Grand Rapids, up and coming tech area. I came back here. I had already been going to a lot in networking events locally so I knew a lot of people. We got together and we’re like, “Let’s do this thing.” I’ve worked with people, jobs, or met them through jobs, met them out at just a community event. I reached out to these people to host these networking meetings and hopefully people take away knowledge from them each time. The topics vary.
We’ve attended a few local meetups. Sometimes it’s really technical and sometimes it’s really beginner and other times it’s really philosophical. We love it.
We know him. We’ve interviewed him. He does the most awesome things. When we saw that on your site, we were like, “We love that guy.”
People like him, he reached out and I’m like, “Let’s go see this guy hammer some ice with a chisel.” When I got there I’m like, “Holy Cow.” He’s using 3D modeling to make the models. He’s scanning CNC routers.
It’s high-tech ice sculptures. It’s so fun and so interesting to have that diversity and you live in a community that is extremely diverse and has a history of it most especially in manufacturing and industry.
The goal is really just to connect people. When I graduated in college, I started just doing my job. I’m like, “I guess I’m just going to do this until I die. I’d work 9 to 5.” A friend of mine got me into going to these networking events and then I realized just how powerful that is as a tool.
It’s advanced continuous learning. We know the Grand Rapids area and know the kind of community and the kind of industry that’s around there. On a typical gathering or meetup that you do with your Mi3D, we’re curious to know how many average people show up at one of your events.
There are a couple that keep showing up. They’re just interested in the tech and they just like social events. We have groupies. You get the random people who are like, “I’m bored on a Tuesday night,” and they’re on MeetUp.com because that’s what everybody uses now. They’re like, “This sounds interesting, ice sculpting. Let’s go check this out.”
How many usually attend?
I’d say between 20 to 40. I think when Ultimaker came, that drew a lot of people. I think about 40 people came to that one.
That’s a good gathering for a meetup especially on a weeknight. That’s what we were expecting. We can do one around here. Because we’re pretty saturated in the Orange County, California area with a lot of groups that are very focused on different things, but even a big entrepreneur or leadership event, unless there’s a really big name draw that everybody knows, you’re lucky if you maybe get half a dozen to ten people. You’re doing really well in your region, which is great.
That’s the thing that keeps me up a night for the next meeting. I’m like, “Did I tell enough people about this? Did I email enough people? Is it just going to be me and my wife?”
It is always the case when you’re running an event. It doesn’t matter what kind of event. One of the keys that we found here, which maybe will help you out, is that when you have somebody sign up who you don’t know, who’s new to the list, is pick up the phone and call them. Hopefully, if you have in your registration system the ability to get their phone number, they tend to show up because now they met you and they don’t want to disappoint you.
It sounds like a sales technique right there. It’s pretty good.
It is and you’re not selling. You’re just saying, “I’m offering this event and you’re new to it. I’d love to know why and I want to make sure that we’re providing value to you. I want to welcome you.” You’re serving as you call. At the end of the day they feel, “He touch-based me. If I don’t show up, I disappointed him.” They don’t want to do that. We live here in California and you got lots of events going on in LA but true event promoters pick up the phone and call people. That’s how you make sure that they’re going to show up and your name’s on the list. Hopefully, that little tip helps you.
What do you think you’re going to grow it into? That’s what we’re interested in. We’ve had a lot of groups, a lot of meetups and startups that we’ve heard from various people over time. It starts to merge into something else. Have you figured out where you’re going to go with it yet?
I think that’s the stage I’m in right now. I’m at this point where I never thought of myself being a business owner or an organization lead per se. Meetups are fun for the first couple of times. I’m thinking like, “What do I want this to be now? Is it just going to be a perpetual meetup or are we going to actually do something larger than this?” I’m looking into the whole 501(c) non-profit route. I’m getting information on that and what we can do as a service going that route.
It might be interesting for you to talk to some other people. It’s ironic. Way back when we lived in Grand Rapids, Tracy helped start The Western Michigan Sustainable Action Council. It was at the time at which going green was a hot button especially in the Grand Rapids area with all the foams that were being used in office chairs and things like that. Tracy worked for Herman Miller at the time. They were very interested in how we could do that. Because Tracy worked for Herman Miller, they wanted her assistance in helping to start this community, which has over the years, lasted. It started to involve people from manufacturing. When you start to get, in a sense, sponsorship in the aligned areas, you get together a board, which when you have a 501(c)(3) a board. You get together a board of people who are going to help it determine its future formation, a board of advisors, unpaid. A board of advisors who want to see the area grow and be known for 3D printing tech and disruptive technology and help the manufacturing community perhaps adjust and adapt and have a place they can go to find resources.
When you figure that out, it’s really good to have a broad base. If you can get some people from those bigger companies to be involved and maybe even a school like Kendall, it would be a great school to go to. We should introduce you to Tod Babick. He’s a professor there in the Industrial Design department, a good friend of ours. We made him move to Grand Rapids and then he stayed and we left. He moved to Grand Rapids to work with Tom. They had a design consulting business together for a while. He’s a big proponent of design. When you bring design into that, now you’re moving all parts and you can all grow up together. You can also all help with the referrals so that businesses can really grow and adapt 3D printing.
There’s still a lot of stigma around here about 3D printing.
You have because you got old world manufacturing. Tell us about that stigma about 3D printing. We’re interested to hear that. We bet that others who listen to this podcast might be interested to hear that as well.
It’s not a solid ball and it has its place, just the jobs I’ve had. It’s old school manufacturing, machine builders who have been doing things the same way for 30 years, they don’t want to do anything different because it’s worked. Trying to change that stigma could be one of the goals. It’s not this save all in every situation but it’s powerful.
It’s not the answer to every manufacturing concern but it can really help many. That’s one of the things that we’ve been fascinated over the years of doing this podcast. We’re seeing a lot more, we call it use cases, where you’re seeing practical applications of 3D printing being used at mass market retail or in manufacturing or as a part of the design and development process. It’s saving money. It’s saving time. It’s making things more flexible. When you have those case studies and you bring them forward, that changes minds quickly. When you hit people at the amount of time it takes them to do that, the amount of labor they have to pay for, and it’s expensive. Good skilled labor is expensive. All of those things are cutting the time to market process. If you have any one of those case studies that you can bring and present on a monthly basis or something, you’re going to have a lot more credibility.
You’re in the furniture industry. It’s bigger around here, it still is. A lot of those big companies are using 3D printing, like Steelcase. I worked for them for a little bit. They have a full department dedicated to 3D printing and prototyping.
We would imagine they would have to. Big companies that are spending a lot of dollars on certain things are always going to look for ways to speed their time to market on new product development and reduce their cost in any way they can. On the one hand, we’re not surprised there is an old school mentality at certain parts of industry in Grand Rapids that’s resisting it. The bigger companies, the big three or four major furniture companies there have to still be moving ahead and doing it. You’re in a really interesting region though because your region comes with a lot of you would see as machine shops. You’ve got a lot of sub-suppliers who do one thing really well. They’ve been doing that same thing and supplying the same small core set of customers year after year after year. It’s not until that business starts getting endangered because they’re not being fast enough, because they’re not cost effective enough, that they either give up or they look outside. They’re like, “What else is next?” You want to be that ‘what else is next’, right?
Yeah, or be able to connect them with the people that can help them.
Or what else is new? That’s really what we think would be great for you in that region. The new disruptive machine shops, the new design shops, the new CAD shops. You have a whole opportunity to service those big companies in a totally different much more flexible and focused way.
Our last Meetup with the Treefort VR local, I think that is the next disruptive technology. 3D printing is still disrupting but what these guys we’re doing just blew my mind. They’re using VR for psychology, therapy. A machine builder company has this giant assembly line. They want to walk around it and see how it fits in their plant. They can do that now with VR. It’s crazy.
There’s a design and engineering gap for VR, AR and 3D printing. There absolutely is. You can’t be in a better region to be able to supply great people who can learn it and adapt and shift right into a great new business model and be really busy.
Right now, it’s just for an organization and I already feel overwhelmed.
You feel that pressure to make it better so that you can be the champion in your region.
I’m like, “Did I do enough blog post? Did I post enough on Twitter? Did I post enough on Instagram?”
What are you seeing in the community in Grand Rapids? Are you involved at all with Mi3D with 3D printing in education?
That’s my next step. I started reaching out this school semester that started into those schools. I’m going to some open houses for various tech centers. I think that’s going to be the next branch that I will go down.
You should because speaking as parents, especially in that region, you have a very intellectual parent base. They’ve grown up with a lot of arts and culture and lots of great education. There’s lots of great colleges in the area and a lot of them are grads from there. They have a really great interest in making sure that their kid’s education is at the cutting edge. We are like that. We have our older daughter who was born in Grand Rapids but our two younger ones are in grammar school and preschool here. It’s a big thing for us. We really want to make sure that they’re getting exposure to the new technologies, to CAD, at a very early age because we want it to be second nature for them. When you can get in front of not just these schools and the teachers but in front of those parents, you’ll be surprised the difference that makes.
I already see it. If I came over when I was a little kid to somebody’s house and they had four 3D printers, not just one, I’d be blown away. My nephew comes over, he’s like, “Cool.”
It’s no big deal. That’s the case and we’re glad, that means that there’s great good exposure to it. Our daughter when she was eight, she’ll go, “We could just 3D print that,” like it’s just a common thing. “Of course, we could just 3D print that. I can’t find it anywhere. I’ll just 3D print it.” That is awesome mentality. That’s what we want because we’re going to create a whole generation of innovators. We really applaud what you’re doing, Chris.
We wanted to just touch a little bit about your personal work. You had been into a lot of cosplay. We featured a couple of things over time. Game of Thrones is doing a lot with their 3D printed accessories and costume items. You have something our little daughter would love, which is a Rey gun, Star Wars’ Rey the person, her gun. She is fascinated. Our three year old is in love with Rey. We think Rey gun means something different than Rey’s blaster. We saw that on your site. We love that you’re exploring all these things. Are you finding better sites to download from? We’ve had a lot of hit and miss with some of the sites.
Yeah. A lot of times some big stuff like that doesn’t go together. I’m left wondering like, “Is it my printer? I used different materials. Stuff doesn’t go together in the files or messed up.” I end up downloading a file for my wife and she goes, “Do we go to try to print it?” I’m like, “These things got holes all in it.” We have to repair it. I think it’s just that you’re going to get that when you have that accessibility available to the masses like it is right now.
User-generated content is not always perfectly done. It’s free so it is what it is. You have the skills to be able to modify or even just recreate things like that.
On the website, did you see the sword pictures that I have on there?
I always love Power Rangers growing up and just the ability to be able to take up some pictures that I had and using Fusion 360, just draw that sucker up, print it, have it brought to a Comic-Con to have the original Red Ranger sign it. The fact that I can do that, that blows my mind.
It is really profound and fascinating that that can happen here nowadays. It’s a whole new world. When we were in Grand Rapids, we were involved in all sorts of manufacturing and all sorts of resources. When you had to make a prototype of something, you had to use traditional methods. We were using CAD. We remember going around finding the only company in the greater Grand Rapids area that did laser cutting. We were having sheet plastic laser cut instead of being stamped to the steel inaudible 21:07. The fact that I was taking a 2D CAD file and giving it to them and having them laser cut these parts was seriously advanced for the time. Now, that’s old school. You may eventually want to stamp something but laser cutting is pretty common now around the country. You can have some that are in your garage, the smaller ones.
There’s so much traditional manufacturing in the area. While there is still some of that, it is quite common now for people to be having their own CAD files, having things CNC machine. 3D printing out of the manufacturing is just the next evolution of that. It makes complete sense. You’ve got a unique opportunity that most people don’t have because they may come up in the world of total 3D printing and all CAD, they don’t have that exposure to how things are going to really be made when they’re in full manufacturing. They don’t have that firsthand view, knowledge, or experts that they can talk to so they make this part. We get this all the time. We get people with 3D printed inventions and other things and they come to us and we’re like, “We can’t make that in traditional manufacturing methods, which we need in order to make tens of thousands of pieces the same way that you have it here. We now have to redesign the entire thing.” They didn’t have that access to people. You have that both.
That’s definitely I think I see a lot with local inventors. They have a lot of prototype. They paid somebody on 3D Hubs to print off and they’re like, “How do we make this?” I’m like, “Well.”
There’s that disconnect between those that just really start CAD only and don’t have that more mechanical side. They don’t have that experience themselves. We want the community to have both. It should be great. You should be able to come up with the idea and print it out and test it and find out if there’s a market for it and then be able to make it but there just needs to be a better communication level between the experts in those areas to be able to make something right the first time.
That’s when networking comes in.
That’s where you end up back in the meetup. Chris, we really have enjoyed talking with you today. We hope that you really get this going to its next phase. Keep us posted. Let us know where it moves to.
3D Print Meetups – Final Thoughts
That was a trip down memory lane. So many things started to come back to us. We’re remembering we talked about CAD in the 90s and 3D modeling things. There were similarities to how 3D printing is today. We’re not going to say that CAD spreads as much like wildfire or 3D CAD did as much as 3D printing is. 3D printing in the whole maker movement is larger in many ways. It touches a lot more people. It took us back remembering really going all over trying to find a good laser cutter to be able to cut this material without having to pay for tooling.
This is also another problem. We have a friend up in Western New York up in the Buffalo area, and he’s been struggling with trying to find metal cutters or laser metal. He’s having trouble finding someone who’s not completely booked up, who has just so much work that they can’t do independent designer’s project or an inventor’s project. He’s really having difficulty with that in certain regions of the country. You almost have to get together with other people and say, “Who do you use? Who do you know who might have one?” They’re not just on 3D Hubs and other places. You need other things when you’re in the development and designing process and having a community of people you can network with and call up and say, “I got this problem. Do you guys know a solution?” The power in that. It’s tremendous. That’s what people in local cities and towns all over the country are facing the same issues. Either they’re trying to educate themselves or they have problems they need to solve. They need to find new resources to achieve their goals or their projects. There are people who just think it’s cool, they’re enthusiast, and they’re just interested and want to get exposed to it no matter what it is. That’s a great way to do it.
If you like to be in touch with Chris to find out how he got started and start one in your own area, you can find him at 3DStartPoint.com. You can also check out his designs which we were talking about his fun cosplay designs and some of the stuff that he’s been doing at his Crisco Designs was what he calls it. We have to mention the cool tag line that he has on his page. We love it, “Changing the world one layer at a time.” That’s what it says on the bottom of his Crisco Designs page. We love that idea. One small step and a local meetup is just that. A 3D print meetup is one small step in your community to really changing the way manufacturing works, changing the way design works, changing the way education works. You can impact so much with just one little meetup. We want to encourage you to do that and hope that you’ll get inspired by Chris and what he’s done.
We hope you enjoyed that interview. If you have another group in your area and have something unique to share, we’d love to hear from you. Please comment or reach out to us on social media.
This has been Tracy and Tom on the WTFFF 3D Printing Podcast.
- Meetup group
- Midwest RepRap Fest
- 3D Printing Nerd
- The Western Michigan Sustainable Action Council
- Treefort VR
- 3D Hubs
- Crisco Designs
About Chris Kaminsky
Chris Kaminsky is a mechanical engineer that fell in love with 3D printing. He likes being able to bring iconic things from games, movies and tv shows to life. As well as coming up with solutions for everyday problems and being able to print what is needed at home! He a ended the Midwest Rep Rap Fest in Goshen, IN this year for the 1st me and he loved it. A er the event he decided that something needs to be done to bring community together over these amazing technologies. Using his network of people in the area that are passionate about 3D tech we started MI3D. MI3D is a professional networking meetup each month with varying topics related to the 3D space. The topics have ranged from a local company, The Ice Guru, that does ice sculptures using advanced 3D technology to even Ul maker joining us to talk 3D printing for a night! Chris has his own website where he showcase the designs of his own as well as items he printed using other people’s designs. h ps://www.criscodesigns.co/projects One of his original designs include a Custom Phone Bike Mount ‐ V1. He designed it because of his obsession with Pokemon Go. It was designed to fit a phone and a battery pack to help him and his wife play.
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