Guest Post: 3 Tips for launching your 3D Printing Project

Guest post by Don Bosco, Author at Super Cool Books

No matter what business you're in, 3D printing will affect how you work. Somewhere in the world already, people are enjoying: 3D printed homes, cars, body parts, clothes, gadgets, food, and more. Even the most staid business publications are running euphoric headlines like: "3-D Printing Will Change the World".

My first encounter with the 3D printing community came at a Singapore Maker Meetup last year, when I was invited to talk about how I've been applying lean startup techniques to run a publishing and learning venture called Super Cool Books. With the help of some collaborators from the meetup group, we started a 3D printing project to promote our children's books. You can read about it here. If you're launching your first 3D printing project, these lessons might be useful.

While 3D printing technology is getting more accessible, there's still a steep learning curve involved. It takes a lot of experimenting to learn the idiosyncrasies of each machine, figure out the best ways to load the plastic filament for different printing projects, anchor your 3D model so it won't move out of place as it is being printed, and so on. The most effective way to jumpstart your project would be to recruit as many supergeek collaborators as you can.

Some 3D printing enthusiasts try too hard to make their 3D printer the centre of attraction. This is good for technical demos, but in other cases it can in fact make your audience feel overwhelmed and alienated. Instead, try to put the focus on your target audience and make them the stars of the project.

In our case, we came up with a kit for kids to make their own boardgames based on our book "Diary of Young Justice Bao", and we also developed a 3D-printed stencil that they could use to create their game accessories. We watched the kids get absolutely engrossed in experimenting with the stencil. But the magical moment came after that, as they excitedly rounded up their friends and family members to help playtest their creations. That ultimately helped everyone appreciate how useful 3D printing was.

Besides using 3D printing to promote Super Cool Books, we also decided to share the designs and workshop content as open source materials. We've put up a page on our website with photos, 3D files, and video clips to explain the entire process. This has created a sense of community and made it easier for us to seek technical advice as well as approach new collaborators. Not all the stakeholders are fans of 3D printing, but what keeps them engaged is the gung ho creative spirit behind the project: the sense that change is possible, that imagination matters, and that tinkering pays off.