Live from the SoCal MakerCon show floor, author Joe Micallef details how he started in the 3D print industry and began to write his book, “Beginning Design for 3D Printing.” Beginners are introduced to 3D model design and creation with easy to follow tutorials for many free CAD software programs. There is a critical need for CAD designers and 3D print experts in the growing 3DP economy.
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3D Printing for Beginners with Author Joe Micallef
Hey, we’re here at SoCal Maker Con with Joe Micallef, who’s an author of a book about design for 3D printing. Thank you so much for joining us today.
No problem. You’re welcome.
Please tell us a little about yourself, how you got interested in 3D printing and why you wrote a 3D printing for beginners book.
I started in animation, that’s my background. I have an animation degree from USC. Based on that, a lot of the things we do in animation in terms of modeling, it lends itself to 3D printing. Anybody who has a CG Animation background already has the expertise in creating all sorts of different models. That’s how it began. I did a lot of work in Zbrush. I had my work on LinkedIn, on my LinkedIn profile, I put renders of my Zbrush models. Bob Titsch from 3D Printer World saw my work and he brought me onboard to help him launch 3D Printer World, which was one of the first 3D printing trade shows that has happened here. That’s how I really got my start. That was about two years ago.
We actually were at 3D Printer World and saw the whole Zbrush competition and everything. We probably actually met you there. I didn’t realize it.
That’s how the Zbrush competition actually got started. When Bob saw my profile in LinkedIn, he was here trying to scout things out. He took me out to dinner. I said, “Hey, you’ve got to get Zbrush onboard. You’ve got to get Zbrush involved in this.” That’s how that came about. Zbrush came onboard and it was Paul Gaboury from Zbrush. They started doing this live sculpting competition. Because everything works perfectly for that.
It was quite something to watch all those people just out of nothing in a very short period of time create some very detailed 3D models.
Zbrush is one of the best tools out there in my opinion because it is instantaneous. You start from nothing and it just grows. Your imagination just blossoms and then if you have a 3D printer … In Seattle, we actually had a 3D printer at the show. They’re printing on a Zcorp printer and creating those prints right when the competition ended at the show. They did that in Burbank as well. That 3D printer was offsite. In Seattle, you can actually see them sculpt and then it would go straight to the 3D printer and you can see it printing.
That’s great. Wow. Your book is called Beginning Design for 3D Printing, which is what we highly recommend, that people start with the design part of it rather than just start with the printer, which we hear so often. Because if you just start with the printer, you’re going to be frustrated after a while with only a few good models out there to print yourself. Talk about how it was to go about organizing that, because thinking about the design process is really complicated. You’re teaching design, CAD, everything all at once. How did you organize that?
It was just a complete purge of information because I’ve used all of these tools. It’s actually really easy for me to write. The whole idea is found in the fact that you don’t need a 3D printer to start. Where’s the best way to begin? I wrote the book using a pathway type methodology where we begin with the most easiest, most accessible tools. I go down that path to slightly more advanced tools. If you begin with Tinkercad… That’s where it begins.
You start with Tinkercad. The idea is, even if you don’t have your own computer at home, go to a local library and get a Tinkercad account and start playing. There’s no need to actually have the 3D printer. Tinkercad is that great introduction into the world of 3D. You learn how to navigate in 3D space, you learn what the coordinates are, XYZ, a grid. It just grabbing shapes. It’s so easy for people to start like that. Then we go down that pathway, it gets more advanced but it’s still simple enough where anybody who has absolutely no 3D design experience whatsoever can get the necessary skills by going through the book. That’s the whole idea.
It’s so critical because I think it’s very hard for people to think about 3D printing where you can make anything. It’s too broad. If you can make anything, what are you going to make? Their minds are paralyzed with, “I don’t know what to make. I can make anything.” You need to really focus and figure out what you want to make. Having the ability to make it is really critical. I’m fascinated to read your book. I haven’t read it yet but this is one of the most critical missing pieces in this whole industry. So many companies making machines, so many companies making software, what are they going to make? We need more content providers. We better teach them how to design.
In order for the industry to really grow, you really need to grow that audience of designers. It all begins with that designer. The idea is similar to when desktop publishing started to come about, you had the technology but without that desire to actually start publishing your own materials and do your own work in let’s say Photoshop, that’s where the imaginations really push forward all the technology. Right now, the technology is coming first but we really start to have to push those imaginations first and then the technologies there for them. Without that imagination growing, it’s going to be challenging for all these 3D printer companies, manufacturers to sell their products.
Exactly. Tell us where people can find your book.
It’s really out there mainstream. This is not a self published book. This is mainstream.
This is full color. This is one of the very few full color books that Apress has actually published.
That’s good. You need that to help. Is it all right with you if as we review the book, we can select few images from the book as example? Is that okay?
Because I think that would help a lot of people understand. They can see why they may want to go out and get the book.
Definitely. The whole process was me going through step by step, figuring out what the designs would be and then printing those designs myself. You see everything from the very beginning, all the way to the final thing, being held in my hand basically then go through that whole journey.
Wonderful. That’s really good. We have actually a six year old daughter who is really into learning this. We’ve started her own Tinkercad.
She’s very early on but she’s really into it and going and growing those basic shapes and building things out of them. I’d be very curious to read in your book how you take someone through that, but then how you step them up to the next and the next thing, because we’re going to need to do that with her. Sooner rather than later I think for case because she is more anxious to keep going. Absolutely. They don’t want to stop. Once you get bitten by the bug, you’re like … “My dad can 3D print that.” That’s her favorite line.
Definitely. You start with Tinkercad and then it goes to 123D Design and then it goes into organic modeling. We talk about Sculptris. Sculptris is the free equivalent of Zbrush. Every software featured is, everything is free downloadable software. The whole idea too is you don’t have to go out and buy software. Learn the free tools and then find the resources to get it 3D printed. If you have a 3D printer, great. Go through the software. There’s ways to go through the software.
That’s so good. Wonderful. It so exciting to meet you. Somebody who finally did this. To meet somebody here at the show who’s working on the design side of it. Because really not a lot of people here at the show are doing that. It’s very refreshing. I think that our audience will be very interested in that. Very exciting. What’s next for you, Joe?
What’s next? I have two kids myself. I have seven year old and a three year old. It’s challenging to write a book and have kids. It’s like, you got to find ways to sneak out and write the book. Next, well, I wrote the book, and now I’m actually working at a production studio in Torrance for the automotive industry.
Wow. Wonderful. They’re doing a lot of a design in 3D printing works.
A lot of designs in 3D printing but a lot of work in animation as well. Full scale production studio, it’s black magic cameras.
We have everything there. We’re going to do live feeds. It’s about taking ideas like these … The idea behind 3D printing is slightly complex to really understand if you try to visualize it. It’s hard for the first time. How do you take something that’s complex like that and simplifying it could make it really digestible for this general public?
So important. I think that’s part of why there’s such a misconception or a lack of understanding about what 3D printing can do because you get this, “Oh that? But that’s all plastic things.” I say, “How many plastic things do you buy every day?” The world is actually plastic so it’s just too broad to be thinking that way. If you can start to break it down and to have really great demonstrable content but also demonstrable methods by which you go about doing it, it’s a lot more digestible.
That’s the idea. The idea is you don’t have to be engineer who knows CAD. People see the machine and they think they have to have those engineering skills and immediately they’re intimated by it. It’s all about having the ability to conceptualize and to imagine something and do whatever that idea is, imagine, bring it into reality. The book goes through a wide variety of tools. If you don’t feel comfortable with the engineering tools, there’s more artistic and organic tools or vice versa.
Nice. I have to tell you this Joe, because it’s a little bit unusual. I was in the ladies’ room here and a woman had two of your books.
She has two of the books in the …?
She was holding on to them and she’s trying to wash her hands. She couldn’t quite do it and I offered to hold the books for her. I saw it and I said to her, “Oh, are you thinking about starting 3D printing?” I guess her friend was with her and she started telling me about how excited she was about 3D printing. I said, “Do you have any design skills already?” “No,” but she was completely excited about it and excited about getting started. The other woman is very excited and is texting her son that he needs to become an industrial designer.
Because he’s eighteen and trying to figure out where to go to school. She sending him off to become an industrial designer right now. You just converted two people at this show already.
That’s perfect. One of the things that’s going on in manufacturing is many manufacturers are worried they can’t fulfill current jobs in manufacturing.
That’s what we keep saying. We agree. There’s a gap. The new economy is the design economy.
If they have those design skills?
If they start to really connecting with the young people who are interested in Minecraft and TinkerCAD, they shouldn’t have a problem filling jobs. It’s a matter of understanding. If there’s a connection, you have to make it.
Not only that, I think that for young people can considering future careers and where are there going to be a lot of job opportunities, I think that in the creation of content to be 3D printed for whatever application, business, consumer, whatever, there’s going to be a big need and a high demand. I think in terms of job security, this is a future career. I think it’s undervalued and not quite understood how much that’s going to be needed, designers, creators of this aren’t going to be in high demand.
I definitely think so. I think the idea is that the one resource that’s unlimited is your imagination. The moment that you think that your imagination is limited, you need to have a bigger imagination because you could imagine beyond that.
That’s why I’m so excited about the next generation because while we feel very creative and it’s our day job to do that. That next generation doesn’t have all the preconceived notions of how the old manufacturing techniques worked. They’re going to come in, green on 3D printing and all of a sudden they’re going to have new forms and new shapes that are going to have new functions and new wild ideas that we could never conceive because we have too big a paradigm even though we are open minded.
We’re burdened by a lot of preconceive notions that go with the industry.
That they won’t have.
They don’t have that.
What a great time we’re living in. So exciting.
It is exciting.
I hope all of our listeners are really interested as well and just as excited as we are. That’s why we’re doing this. Thank you so much, I really appreciate your time to talk about 3D printing for beginners.
This is great, thank you, it’s nice to meet you.
It’s great to meet you. We look forward to reading your books.
Definitely. Glad to be here. It’s very cool that you guys are doing this. This is great. Thank you very much.
- Beginning Design for 3D Printing on Amazon
- SoCal MakerCon 2015 Recap
- SoCal MakerCon 2016 Recap
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