Captivated by 3D Printing: Casey Simring on her design internship experience at Breadbox Studio

casey printout_xsI started working for Joe Masibay at Breadbox Studio in June as an interested yet inexperienced design intern. In April, as as a student at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, I exchanged a few emails with Joe and he encouraged me to stop by when my semester ended. Having no idea what to expect, and less of an idea of what I was in for, I began to decode the mystery of the rapidly evolving technology of 3D printing.  I started by wrapping my mind around how an intangible computer file becomes an actual object that I can hold in my hands. This happened on day one:  within five minutes of meeting Joe he scanned me and printed out a purple plastic bust of me!   

Until then, the the world of 3D printing was just an interesting concept to me. I had read articles about new innovations and engaged in lengthy conversations with my hyper-enthused father. Now, with the plastic mini me in hand, I was able to grasp the reality of how this technology can change the world.

In one of the workshops that Breadbox Studio hosted I learned that three-dimensional printing was first discovered and put into use in the 1980s. Now, thirty years later the field has expanded, encompassing everything from auto body parts to human body parts. As 3D printers are increasingly designed for more intricate jobs, printers are also being simplified and sold for mass consumption. The expansion in both directions makes 3D printing an increasingly relevant technology. With so much potential and innovation, I was really excited to start my three-month internship and get my hands on 3D printing!

With great patience, Joe introduced me to various 3D modeling programs, showing me the rudimentary steps to building, refining, and then slicing a file to be printed. I started with simple objects, but soon was able to duplicate complex shapes and even model replacement parts for broken machines. Spending hours perfecting said parts, watching them print, and then using these new pieces to fix a device proved very rewarding. I was able to formulate an idea, design it, and have it in my hands within a day. I kept thinking to myself, “This is the future.”

A screenshot of one of the first things I successfully built in Solidworks (3D modeling program) and printed out on an Ultimaker 3D printer.

Though the use of 3D printing at Breadbox Studio is captivating, it is far from the only work that goes on here. Joe, along with a few other freelance designers, work on projects, often a model for a toy, from  the design phase into fruition, complete with a paint job. Every detail is fully realized and executed perfectly, for example whether it is the size of a wheel  or the curved line of an eyebrow for Thomas the Train.

Yet with all of the innovative technology, the scrupulous detail and the overwhelming workload, what impressed me the most was Joe’s passion to for community outreach. Spending countless hours working tirelessly on upwards of three jobs a week, Joe will always set aside time for workshops and meet-and-greets as well as time for making customized jewelry piece based on an NBA All-Star ring for a neighborhood kid. Through his work with Harlem Children’s Zone, Joe helped a group of  lively teenagers design and build robots they could be proud of.  Joe loves the work he does, and his excitement is particularly apparent when he shares his skills and technology with anyone who shows interest. If you come into Breadbox Studio with a hungering for knowledge, as I did a few months ago, you will leave with an understanding that surpasses your original curiosity and an eerily realistic model of your head.

Today is my last day, and I am leaving the studio with what feels like a year’s worth of experience. Through design, modeling, printing and painting, my ideas have come to life. I now feel confident in educating others about this amazing process and hope to bring this technology to my university and cultivate an accessible 3D printing program there.

Text and photos: Casey Simring