Life Lessons From 3D Printing
So... I Have a 3D Printer
Several years ago I got a hold of my first 3D printer. I had done months of research and when I learned about everything that could be done with a printer I decided to take on the hobby. My initial thought is that I will learn to print models other people had created.
Little did I know that this new hobby impact other areas of my life in unexpected ways. 3D printing has taught me more than what filaments to use for a project or how to replace a broken part. Taking on this hobby has taught me to be patient, persistent, use my creativity more, and to learn to solve problems in unique ways.
It's my hope that by sharing how 3D printed has affected each of these areas of my life, I can help others to realize the same for themselves and maybe I can help someone else feel inspired to get in to this extremely rewarding hobby.
If nothing else, 3D printing teaches a person to be patient. Over the years dealing with anxiety issues, patience has been an issue for me for much of my life. In general, if something goes wrong, even minor, my brain can make me feel like the world is crumbling down around me. This would tend to show outwardly by me getting frustrated with myself or others when things just didn't go quite as planned.
Ask anyone with a 3D printer, being patient with it is key to your enjoyment, especially if you're using a more budget friendly 3D printer like I am. 3D printing technology, in the big scheme of things, is still really new in the home. It's a technology that isn't quite perfected despite how amazing it can be when everything is working.
I would be lying if I said that I've been patient through the 3D printing learning process. I had to take some time to learn to be patient when problem-solving. There are still times I get annoyed and honestly have to walk away from working on my machine for a few minutes but overall, because of 3D printing I've learned that most times when I run in to an issue I can take a deep breath, re-focus, and try again. This has significantly helped me in my personal and professional life. I'm more patient with myself, and in-turn, more patient with others.
Persistence is a skill that tends to go hand-in-hand with patience in my mind. There are a few different ways to view it, but I'm just going to explain this in the way I personally think about persistence. To me, persistence is continually striving towards something. It's setting goals and working your way to get there despite failure after failure.
The key to persistence for me however, is to continually be learning. With persistence, even slow progress is progress and over time you would be surprised at what you can achieve if you just stick with it.
An example of persistence that really stands out to me is my ability to create 3D designs. I never expected myself to be able to learn the skills needed to design something myself other than some basic shapes. My slow and steady persistence over the years to challenge myself and take on new design tasks has made me a much more confident 3D model designer then I would have ever expected.
I started with absolutely no knowledge 3D modeling but now I am able to create most ideas that pop into my head to help me around the house. This was not a skill that I learned overnight, but a steadily practiced skill that I have improved over time.
I remember my first design being a struggle and that was just creating some simple circles. Fast forward a couple years and I designed and built a complicated miniature wind turbine with moving parts entirely on my own. Looking back to when I started 3D printing I never would have thought I could create something remotely close to that.
Persistence combined with patience has really positively affected my life. For a long time I was at a job I didn't like, but I stuck with it. I patiently awaited a better job opportunity, while in my day-to-day life I applied persistence to improve my professional skills in my current role. After years of focusing on these traits, I was able to land my dream job.
While I won't say 3D printing alone is what got me to where I am, I will say that I've been able to apply some of those lessons and practice some skills that have contributed to who I am. Being persistent is crucial to my professional life and it's something I practice whenever I'm working on a new 3D printing project.
I've never been an amazing artist. my drawing skills never really progressed past the third grade when I drew a picture of a clown and for some reason it got hung in the main office of my elementary school for several years after I had left the school. The highlight of my career as a crayon artist. For most of my life that was my crowning artistic achievement, that is until I got it 3D printer and learned to make even basic designs.
My newest crowning achievement is my sea anemone Dice tower. I'm still extremely happy with how this turned out and it's one of my favorite desktop ornaments. it brings together two things that I really love, the oceans and technology, and also offers at least some function. I've also sold a couple, which lets me know that other people appreciate my work too!
The story behind this is that I really like the idea of a dice tower for a game of dungeons and dragons that I was playing with friends. The only problem is, I'm not that big of a fan of the fantasy and Castle aesthetic. Sure that's kind of what dungeons & dragons is all about but I'm in the game more to spend time with friends, and less because I'm interested in the fantasy world. In any case, I had a lot of difficulty finding a dice tower that didn't look like a castle. The ones that I could find were generally just simple boxes. None of these fit my criteria so I decided to take things into my own hands.
I began doodling random geometric shapes in the rough shape of a tower to get my mind going. I had some experience with this type of low-polygon design before from some simple planters that I had previously made. As I was doodling these towers for some reason I got the idea that they looked like rocks under the sea. From there I just knew I had to add a sea anemone. Once I was happy with a sketch I took to various design tools to create the item I was looking for.
Months later I still don't get tired of looking at it and I'm really happy with the result. The base is polygonal and represents technology, while the top is rounded and organic; but both parts still work together and somehow fit style-wise. The first tower I printed sits on my desk and doesn't have to get put away between my dungeons & dragons games because it looks so dang cool. I'm extremely proud of myself for the amount of work I put into designing it and really feel like it is the first true piece of art I've ever made. It combines things that are important to me and has meaning, at least to me.
Problem Solving (engineering)
By no means am I an engineer in any sense of the word. Real engineers study extremely hard and are experts in their fields. I admire engineers and appreciate the work they do on the things we interact with everyday. Even though I'm not an engineer, 3D printing has taught me to think like an engineer in a lot of ways.
3D printing inspires me everyday to creatively approach problems in order to find a resolution. I tend to see things a little bit differently when I have 3D printing on the mind. A simple household projects that could be boring now becomes a puzzle and a challenge for me to solve.
I've learned to focus on simple solutions, since that is most likely the best one. The argument can easily be made that by 3D printing something instead of just buying it is a waste of time and is over-engineering things. to that I would argue that I have developed some very simple solutions the problems that I've had by distilling the problem down and approaching it simply.
For example, a broken dishwasher bracket could have caused a lot of headache. My dishwasher is fairly old and finding a proper replacement part would have proven a challenge. After only an hour of work work in my CAD software, I had not only designed a bracket that would work but that was also stronger than the original one that came with the dishwasher. Even if I could find a replacement bracket to purchase, I knew there was a good possibility of them breaking again. With a custom 3D printed design though, if a bracket breaks in the future it will only take about an hour to print in order to fix the issue. I think that's pretty amazing while still being a simple solution to the problem.
In the end, I truly believe that taking on 3D printing as a hobby as improve other areas of my life. It's affected my day-to-day life both at home and professionally and I'm extremely glad I took the plunge to learn this craft. Not only that, but now I have an endless supply top toys to keep me distracted.