3D design demands continuous learning, which is best acquired through experience. For Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard, the thousands of hours they spent on designing 3D prints have led to more than a few lessons learned about how to best create 3D printed products. The order of the design process is essential for the product to end up right-fit for your needs. Join in as they revisit this episode, where they share their top five takeaways on 3D printing, 3D design thinking, and what to do and consider at each step of the creative workflow process.
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Lessons Learned After 1000s of Hours of 3D Design to Print – Updated 2020
This is a special series sponsored by 3D print from HP, 3D print by HP, and Z by HP. Because Z by HP is a little more on the design side, this is one of the episodes that they liked and asked us to include in the series, so we did. This is all about designing 3D prints and 3D design to print because that’s the process flow of our creative workflow and how you do it. They asked us to do a little update and as we were going through the post for this in the original episode, we realized, “This has got everything in it that we do. There isn’t anything new that we’ve added.” We want to give it a little context for you.
It makes a lot of sense to bring this episode back because of the lessons learned. There have been more lessons learned since we first published this episode. They are all in the same vein of elements of the design process and creating a 3D design, but it makes a lot of sense to revisit this. Have things changed that much or somethings are the same? It’s just some of the technology that has allowed us to achieve more and do it faster and such.
We’re not addressing the technical of what have we learned about like heated build plates versus not. This is more about the design process because when we started 3D printing way back when, we discovered that the design process we used, while the process was important and we needed to follow our workflow in a similar way, we had to mix it up a little bit. Because the iteration process is both so intensive and important, but we also needed to make sure that what we were printing and what we were using was useful to an audience, a consumer, and whoever our end product was supposed to go to whether it was our client or an actual buyer out there.
We always look at things from a little bit different perspective than other product designers and other 3D print designers out there. That’s part of what this is. This is the design process that we follow. It’s an abbreviated version of it because it’s only on the front end of the process. We do have more steps as you go through and take something into manufacturing, but if you end at it, at this point is the 3D print. That’s where we stopped it in the process. There are five steps and this is what we always do when we approach a new project. What we’ve learned over time is that if we try to mix this up and do them in a different order, it doesn’t work.
The order that we know for our design process and our design workflow from designing 3D prints, going all the way through to print. The first thing we need to do is think. The second thing we need to do is think about the audience. Who’s it for? Where’s it going to go? All of the contexts of what’s going to happen from that. The third thing which is important is getting yourself CAD-proficient so it’s not a hindrance to what you’re trying to communicate and what you’re trying to do.
You don’t want the tools you use and at some point, to 3D print something, a tool involves CAD software. You’ve got to create a model that’s going to be printed. You can’t print without that. Don’t let that tool hold you back. One of the things I’m excited with this series of HP is some of the new software tools that we talked about.
We’re going to get to our XR series, our VR, and all of that in a couple of episodes. The CAD tools are becoming more intuitive, so there’s a lot more going on there.
There is so much opportunity and you’re going to want to see that.
You’ve got to get yourself proficient at it because when you’re technically challenged on anything, you’re overthinking things and you’re not in the process. That’s why we talk about that. We also need to test it out and that’s when we’re getting perspective on something. When we design something, you’re designing it in a vacuum. You need to go out there. You need to make touchpoints and perspective resets and get someone to say, “Is this as intuitive as I think it is? Is this good? Are you excited about this? Would you buy this?” These are the things that we’re always asking because we all have blind spots as designers. As for 3D printers, we also get into our own heads the tech about it and we think, “Everybody’s going to love this,” and then they go, “That finish is a little funky.” You need to get that outside perspective in and the testing it out part is important.
The last part is that’s when we refine. We don’t refine too early in the process and we’ll talk about that in this episode. We don’t do it because it can be a waste of time when we’ve gotten ourselves caught up in details that don’t matter. The thing about it is we want to stress continual learning. We’re not just talking about education and all of these things. As we’re segueing into the design, technology, and some of the cool things that we’re going into this next segment of episodes, this is something that we’re always learning. We’re always learning something new about technology. We’re always learning something new about how to process our materials, but we’re always also reinforming it and giving ourselves an overarching creative workflow that we know our process works again and again. We always have to fit these things in within that and keep that open-mindedness to how things might work and keep that curiosity. If we build that into the process of what we do for designing 3D prints, we would be better off.#3Ddesign demands continuous learning and curiosity. @hp @zbyhp Click To Tweet
Sometimes, you go through things where you might shortcut something for the sake of time or you think, “I don’t need to go through all the steps because I’ve got the experience.” You get reminded every time that you can’t shortcut these steps and processes. You’ve got to go through it all, make it be a part of your normal process, and then the fantastic work will come out from that.
Let’s get some insights into our Lessons Learned After Thousands of Hours 3D Printing and Designing for 3D Prints.
Lessons Learned After 1000s of Hours Designing 3D Prints – originally aired on November 23, 2016
We’ve been doing a lot of reflection on the thousands of hours we’ve been 3D printing or talking about 3D printing, or designing 3D prints. We’ve been thinking about, what did we learn in this process? Were we able to do what we set out to do, which is to help people jump the learning curve? Did we jump the learning curve? Did we scale it? Are we more efficient now than we ever were before?
I definitely think we are more efficient now than we ever were before. There is no question about it.
This is the thing I get when I go out, give lectures, and talk all over the place when I talk about design, innovation, and how we design. When I tell people we did 250 products, they look at me like I’m insane. “How did you manage to do that?” I want to go, “There were probably thousands of products if you want to look at our binder,” but we didn’t even show them to anybody because we didn’t take them to market. For every one design that we take to market, there might have been a dozen rejects and sometimes more. It’s not about the designing part of it that we get fast and prolific with. It’s about having the order of the process be right. That’s what I always tell people. What do you think?
I agree and there are some lessons we’ve learned about the process of how to do this using 3D printing as creating 3D prints or 3D printed designs. There are some things we’ve learned and some key factors and recommendations that we have for people.
Designing 3D Prints – Think First
We came up with a list of five that we think are the most important and the order in which we do it is an important part of it. When we set out to design a 3D print, we think first.
This surprises a lot of people, especially if they’re not designers like, “What do you mean? You don’t design it on the computer?” No, I don’t.
We talk a lot.
It starts in your head and this is also a surprise to especially aspiring young designers coming out of school who are interviewing for their first job, whether that’s an internship or their first full-time position. They don’t realize that I care a lot less about what’s in your portfolio that you’ve done when you’re in school. I’m going to ask you questions because I want to know how you think.#3Ddesign is all about getting the design process and creative workflow right. @hp @zbyhp Click To Tweet
Design thinking and thinking first is part of the process. There might be some sketches and demonstrations and we like to bounce it off each other. This is one of the reasons why we believe that we’ve been successful with the products that we’ve launched because that creative process happens at all hours at all times. For us, being able to access each other and be able to say, “I’ve been mulling over the idea that we want to create a puzzle for our holiday gift. How are we going to do it?” “I’ve been thinking about this. I saw something that inspired me and I drew this quick little sketch. What do you think?” It might be Sunday. How often when you work in an office space do you get to do that?
You don’t get to do it very often. The other advantage, a slight sidebar here is that we work together because we’re married. I also can tell you the truth. There are no corporate politics involved where I’m worried about my job or worried about my getting reprimanded for one thing or another. If I think your idea is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, I’m going to tell you, “I think that’s crap.”
Designing 3D Prints – Consider Your Audience
That never happens. We do have that rapport with each other because we know. The best part is whenever I tell Tom that something is, “No,” I don’t even say, “It’s crap.” I go, “No, that’s not it.” Tom goes back and thinks more, especially if he’s like, “I feel like I’m onto something but somehow, I didn’t express it or it’s not there yet, or something’s not right yet.” We’ll discuss it a little further, who is it for would be the number two thing we consider as we’re designing for 3D printing. When I look at that, we would go, “I think this audience isn’t going to like something made out of plastic. I don’t think that we want to go for an FFF on this.” We discuss that back and forth and that also helps to further refine the idea.
I think that every designer has an ego. The reality is to be able to put that ego aside and to open your mind up to the perspective of others and some of the others that you trust in particular. We’re not saying designed by committee. That’s not the point at all here. This is a trusted design partnership, whether they be mentors or other advisors. Get some other perspectives because we all have blind spots.
There’s this great book I read called Originals. One of the messages that he makes clear there is that major innovation happens more often when you ask experts and get their input than you ask the focus group, the audience, your friends and family, your little network of inventors or makers, or whatever. You have to go for high-level experts within the field or within the product category or whatever that might be. That is where you get the most constructive feedback that you can do something with. It tells you whether you’re onto something or you’re not. We talked about ego and it’s about not treating a single design as a baby ever. You can’t do what we do and the way that we do it in as fast as we do it if we thought each one of them was great that they had to be out on the market. We don’t have that attachment to our designs. They are just another idea.
They’re not precious, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be a great design and be valuable to a lot of people. It’s got to go through a long process and there’s no point in wasting time on something that doesn’t meet the criteria.
There’s an episode we call Discarding 3D Print Ideas. We call it our discard pile. You’re playing cards. You have a hand. Sometimes you have to discard a card that’s a great card, but it doesn’t fit my hand so let me discard it down. It may come back up in your hand and be perfect for it, or maybe you sit there and orchestrate your hand over time to be perfect for the next time she comes up. That’s how we look at these ideas. We aren’t getting rid of them. We’re not going to ignore them. We’re not saying they’re bad. We’re saying, they’re not going to be the most viable going forward and they’re not going to be best for the audience we want. We think first, we figure out who it’s for and then we screen those two things together and say, “Is this right? Should we go forward?”
The who it’s for is not to be underemphasized either. Who it’s for is critical. If an object you’re making doesn’t have a purpose, if there isn’t someone who’s going to want it, find value in it, or benefit from it, then what is the point?
Designing 3D Prints – Know and Grow Your CAD Skills
That’s the design. In an art situation, there still is a viewer. There still is someone you want to receive it. It’s no different there as well. You have an audience, is it going to be in a gallery? Are they going to watch it? Who are the people you want to attract to your message? Do you want to attract to your art? It doesn’t matter whether it’s art design, engineering, or any of those things. It still has an audience. It still has someone that it’s for or someplace that it needs to be that’s a fit. What you’re evaluating is that right fit right there at number two. Our number three is something we believe in strongly. You must continually be CAD proficient. You must get your skills down to the point at which they are like breathing.
Some CAD programs are a lot more difficult than others to learn, but one thing’s for sure, you can’t 3D print something that you see in your mind’s eye unless you can build it in three dimensions in a computer. You’ve got to develop a level of proficiency at one or more CAD programs to be able to realize your vision or your sketch or whatever it is that you’re trying to do.Don’t let your tech skills limit your #3Ddesign skills. @hp @zbyhp Click To Tweet
You can’t let your tech skills limit your design skills. If your imagination is great, your tech skills need to keep up. One of the ways that we recommend doing that is by a marathon. We loved this episode we did a while back about the 3D printed espresso cups or coffee cups. We thought that was a great project. He set out for himself to create 30 days, 30 cups. One cup a day. It is a very simple concept, but each cup had its own uniqueness. Some of them had texture. Some of them didn’t. Some of them were sized differently. He learned all CAD things and tested his skills along the way. That’s a great way to crash course yourself in to. Give yourself a marathon task like that and build your skills quickly.
It’s hard for me to be able to give a lot of good, modern advice on how to learn to use a CAD program, other than dig into it and do it. You need mileage under your belt. You need time doing it model after model. I don’t know that I could teach it effectively like teaching a class or something for a certain CAD program because I’ve been doing it for so darn long. I’ve been using CAD for all those years. I’ve got more than 10,000 hours of the CAD work. I don’t think I have 100,000 but probably 20,000 or 30,000 of CAD, but also mixed in with a whole bunch of design and other things too. You don’t have to have 20,000 or 30,000 hours for you to do that, but even a couple thousand hours in doing CAD is what it’s going to take before you stop thinking about, “What command am I going to use to do that?” You just actually do it. You see it in your mind what you want to make. You sit down at your computer and you start your CAD program. You start doing it and it’s second nature. That’s where great work happens when you’re not slowing yourself down to think about the process and the tool I need to use. Everybody has to go through that first, but you’ve got to get through it.
I want to liken this to those of you who are writers out there. When you sit down and write an article, a blog post, a book chapter, whatever it is that you do, the number one rule of writing is that you write. If you edit while you’re writing, you’re making a huge mistake because you will be much less efficient. You’ll end up in this cycle of not making enough progress and not getting enough ideas out. You will hurt your overall writing, not just your speed, but the quality of the work at the end of the day. The number one rule is to go and do it. The best way to it is you’re not looking at your fingers, typing anything. You’re just typing. It’s coming out of your brain and going in there. You don’t want that short circuit that happens as you start to edit yourself. That’s what happens when you’re starting to think about the CAD functions. When you’re starting to think about, “How do I make this happen?” It’s the same process in your brain that is not letting you push your idea out and be creative. It’s short-circuiting the creativity process.
That’s why we say you think first and thinking is part of designing for us and so is sketching. It’s a process that goes back and forth for me, between the sketchbook and my mind. I’m thinking and designing before I ever get to the computer. By the time I get to the computer, it’s all about execution. I know what I want to do. I have a vision for what it is and I’m going and realizing that vision.
It’s also about solving problems along the way, which leads us to our number four, which is to test. You know when you thought it through and you started to visualize what this is going to be. As you get into your computer to do that, there’s a big challenge in a particular section, a function you have to solve or some area that is complicated. We solve those first, if possible.
The wonderful thing about 3D printing is you can print a portion of your object, the most difficult or the most challenging portion. Make sure that it’s going to work, that it ends up being what you wanted and expected it to be. If not, you make a modification and you do it again. You do that over and over.
Designing 3D Prints – Refine Last
The most wonderful part about 3D printing is that iteration process. It’s because it matches the iteration process of design. That’s how the design process itself has to work. You have to learn something, fix it, and move on. Learn something, fix it, redo it again, whatever you’ve got to keep going on until you get it the way that you want it, until you get it what’s right. We save for number five, the last step in the process. Not that there are not a hundred little mini-steps within that, but these are five key takeaways. We refine last. Sometimes, in engineering, you call it value-added engineering. It sounds boring, but the idea is that, “I’ve got this print and I’m going to worry about the printing part of it. I’m going to worry about how should I orient it. I’m going to worry about what’s the most efficient way to do this.” Sometimes, you might have to go back and do a little redesign to make that work because it will make it more efficient, but we don’t want to compromise the initial design process encumbered with that thinking.
The minutia of getting it every detail and executing right on the first try. No, definitely not.
You want to get through that and say, “Is this working? Is this visually what I want? Does this look like what I want? Is this who it’s for is going to love this?” You want to get that part out first and then worry about how long it takes to print, whether or not you need certain support in certain areas, how you can make that work better, and how you can make it all more efficient. I don’t think this is any different than the design process we took before, just 3D printings in the mix of it. It would take a whole lot longer to do the testing and prototyping part. We might have to go down to the shop, cobble together something that maybe didn’t look as pretty as it can look on the 3D print machines, and test out our thing. The life cycle, the time cycle was longer before, but it’s not now. That’s the best part about it.
To me, the speed of the process, more accurate, and more fun because you’re spending less time constructing something and more time creating and making it a great design.#3Ddesign is an iterative process. You learn something, fix it and redo it again and again until you get it right. @hp @zbyhp Click To Tweet
Final Thoughts on Designing 3D Prints
Our ultimate goal is that we know that what we do best is doing the thinking, sketching, refining, and getting that work done. We want to spend as much time in that creative portion of the process as possible. When you get encumbered and all those other things are difficult, arduous, or you do them in the wrong order and then you have to go back, redo, and rethink, that makes the process not as rewarding for us. That’s why we’ve worked it out the way that we do. It gives us the most time to spend in sections 1 and 2, which we love. Thinking about it and then defining who it’s for and how we’re going to make them love it.
It’s all a part of the process, all aspects of it. I think that that front end process is some of the most fun, but 3D printing has brought a lot of fun into the process that wasn’t there prior.
You get a lot of loss of enthusiasm when you talk about that longer cycle and time cycle. You have this great enthusiasm, designing it, getting the specs out, and then you send it off to the prototype, or in our case, it goes all the way to Asia to be prototyped. A month later, maybe you get it and you have that loss of immediate enthusiasm and you’re like, “I’ve already moved on in my head and started designing the next thing.”
Not only is there a loss of enthusiasm, but if that 2 to 3 weeks later coming back from being prototyped over in Asia like we’ve done a lot in the past, it doesn’t work. It isn’t what you expected it to be, then you’ve lost a lot of time and it’s disappointing, so 3D printing is all right by me.
Designing 3D prints, we love it. We are looking at new ways to be even more efficient and do it faster. That’s a lot of our discussions. We’re continuing to think about this and we realized that this is how we would outline the process as to how it would work for someone else, how we define it. Think first, define who it’s for, get CAD-proficient, and then work on it in CAD, test in pieces if necessary, and refine the production process.
We hope that’s helpful to a lot of you. There are some few good nuggets there from some people that have a lot of mileage under their belts in terms of designing products. Feel free to adapt it, add to it, let us know what you think. Come and check us out or talk to us anywhere on social media @3DStartPoint and give us your thoughts. There are no bad ideas here. There are things to add and different ways of working, but this is how we do it and what we think is most important. Thanks for reading and we’ll see you next time.
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