The Not Yet So Obvious Benefits of 3D Modeling for 3D Printing


3D printing technology makes progress every day. It reaches more and more areas in our lives. In the years to come, it will be a common thing to get something through a 3D printing service. Today I would like to spark a new idea in your mind and the mind of your children.

3D printing just a few years from now

Imagine for a minute your kids have grown up a little bit. You are about to build a new house in the countryside, on the seaside or in the mountain (or anywhere else you would like to have your new house). You are having a meeting with your architect to decide how to design your house. He tells you all the requirements for energy efficiency, comfort and safety. Suddenly, he looks at your child and asks him:

“Do you know how to create 3D model for 3D printing?”

You are surprised. The architect goes on:

“As you probably know, building technology has improved greatly these last years. I was wondering if your child could design his own living area, so we can 3D print his model for him. You too could model some parts of your house to make it unique.”

Two scenarios

Now, dear parents, you have two possible situations:

Situation 1: Your child and/or yourself have never created anything in 3D. Needless to say, something specifically for 3D printing.

Situation 2: Your child and you have already practiced several times 3D modelling for 3D printing. You had lots of fun and have already several Family Made 3D printed objects at home.

In which situation would you like to be? 1 or 2? I would personally prefer the second situation.

Maybe you are telling yourself:

“Patrick is a nice guy, but it will be long before we can do this kind of thing, like modeling all or parts of our living area.”

Really? Think about it. Building constraints have considerably changed. New concrete allows funny shapes as strong and durable as reinforced concrete without iron rods. 3D printing technologies specifically for the building industry are popping all around the world. They progress quickly. Sooner than you think, you will be able to 3D print the house of your dream.

My advice for today

Begin as soon as possible to think about your new house in the shape of a concert grand piano or the shape of a delicious mango.

Are children really more creative than their parents? Sure! But now what?


If you search the first question on-line, you will see hundreds of sites concluding with a resounding, “Yes!” There will also be countless sites telling you how to encourage creativity in your children. (Here, one answer seems to be less schooling!) My questions then become: Why aren’t we taking more advantage of this creativity? Why aren’t there more child inventors? If a key characteristic in certain creative industries, like product design and IT, is to maintain a child-like imagination, then why can’t we just ask actual children?

Chester Greenwood (Age 15) – Earmuffs

Before you hit back with child labor laws, etc., here’s a story showing “10 Great Inventions Dreamt Up by Children.” Here’s another story with the title, “Crazy Kids’ Inventions Turned Into Real Products” with the video version here.

Cassidy Goldstein (Age 12) – Crayon Holders

WHY children are more creative

Out of all the research explaining WHY children are more creative than adults, the one I found the most compelling was by Alison Gopnik, psychology professor at Berkeley in this TED talk. She refers to the work of evolutionary biologists. Humans have an exceptionally long childhood to resolve the “intrinsic tension” between the need to finding the simplest, quickest solutions (adults) versus the need to explore to find alternative solutions (kids). (Any parent trying to get socks on their children will know what Gopnik means.) In short, evolution has designed humans to give them a chance to explore as children before maturing into efficient, problem solving machines as adults.

The next step

But getting back to my earlier questions, why aren’t we working more with children in the creative industries? (Wikipedia notes these nine but there are more.) In my view, one answer is likely the cost of innovation. R&D budgets can be a real drag on profitability for companies. They fund research staff as well the proto-typing. But I think you know what I will say next: 3D printing technology is lowering proto-typing costs. Now, anyone, including children, can also explore new design ideas.

Parents! It’s time to bond with our kids to see where their creativity can take us in the creative industries! Your child might be on a list of inventors in the near future.

More to come in upcoming blogs.



Five ways to find quality time with your children


How is your work/life balance? Do you have difficulty finding quality time with your children? I’m far from being Elon Musk-busy, but I am involved in three separate start-up businesses, serve on three school committees, run weekly as well as weekend 3D printing workshops and have finally found time to begin learning a martial art. I work 10-11 hours a day, averaging about a dozen calls or meetings each week. So how to I find quality time for my daughter? Here are my own top five ways for your comparison.

  1. Use a calendar. I’m quite surprised when I meet people, especially some business owners, who don’t use calendars. Even if you don’t follow David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) methods exactly, calendars help because you’ve unloaded that appointment onto a storage system, which frees your mind up for other things like your son’s football game.

  1. Practice the Two-Minute Rule. Also from GTD is the Two-Minute Rule, which states that if you can perform a task in two minutes or less, then you should do it immediately. It’s not going to take you off course by much and you need to do it anyways. This rule made a big difference for me, as I was surprised how many tasks don’t need more than two minutes of my work time.


  1. Use One-on-One meetings at work. This one is huge! Thirty-minute, One-on-One meetings, where you discuss your keys issues at work, are effective because they put you on the same page with your partners, staff and associates. You work together to solve problems, which reinforces your relationship with them and boosts efficiency. When your work runs more efficiently, it’s just more time for your child.


  1. Explain when you can’t make it. Of course, sometimes you run across the proverbial monkey wrench at work and your family plans go out the window. One thing that I’ve found that works is to take a deep breath and explain as much as possible the reasons why you need to cancel your plans. It will teach the children how the “working world” works and because they generally enjoy learning new things, they will understand. This in itself is a type of bonding experience.

  1. Exercise and eat right. This is another big one because children are just more energetic than adults due to their faster metabolism. When adults exercise and eating right, we accelerate our metabolism, boosting our energy so we can keep up. In our house, dad and daughter just started learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu together so I certainly need to keep moving!

These are my top methods for creating quality time for my daughter. What’s yours?

Five reasons why learning 3D printing today will help children prepare for the future


In my earlier blogs, I covered the advice of education leaders Salman Khan, Founder of the Khan Academy, and Dr. Neil Gershenfeld, founder of the Centre for Bits & Atoms (CBA) at MIT. They both encourage discovery and creativity. Dr. Gershenfeld specifically noted the expressiveness of 3D printing. Now I want to add my own five reasons why learning 3D printing today will help children get ready for their own technology infused future.

  1. Getting a head start as the tech will “mature” about the time our children enter the workforce. 3D printers are just beginning to make usable parts. HP’s long awaited Multi-Jet Fusion technology just hit the market this year. Its thermoplastic material, which you can see in this video, is strong enough to pick up a car. In 10-15 years time, 3D printers will be far more advanced, likely linked to AI software, but still in need of the human touch. This is where and when our children will take the controls.
  2. It will be used in many different industries. Automotive, medical, electronics, toys, even food are just a few examples. Let your child design something today from any of these industries and perhaps they can find something they love for a lifetime! If you don’t try it, you’ll never know.

3D Roundhouse’s Family 3D Printing Workshops

  1. 3D designs help children think out of the box. Children are naturals at creating pictures with crayons and paper. Imagine how much more creative they can be if that design is in 3D instead. On top of this, they can realize their designs on a 3D printer.
  2. It can promote teamwork. While I really enjoy reinforcing the bond I have with my daughter whenever we corroborate on a new design, I believe she is also learning about teamwork. I have my own strengths and weaknesses and she has her own. We try different ideas until we get to the desired result. (OK I admit most of the 3D prints end up in her favorite pink color, but I think it’s just a phase!)

Elizabeth’s pink bow

  1. It helps them define their own likes and dislikes. 3D printing is all about customization. As children grow, it’s sometimes difficult to know what’s favorable to them and what’s not. Using a computer to design an actual object, children can run as many trials and errors as they want, until they find their very own sweet spot. Self-definition is a key part of growing up. As Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true!”

Is Your Child Crazy…or Not???


Hi Parents!

From time to time (or very often!), do you think that your child has some really crazy ideas?

My son has some recurring conversation topics. The planet Mars is one of them. He would like to 3D print a new house for us using the dust and sand you can find on the surface of Mars or by crushing some rocks into powder. He even thinks to use some elements you could find in the waste bin like plastics or aluminum cans.

I could have told him that his ideas are stupid or at least crazy. But before telling this kind of harsh words to my loved one, come with me a few minutes to check if he could be onto something.

The D-Shape

One guy is on his way to 3D printing on the moon: Enrico Dini. This really creative Italian man has invented the D-Shape, a 3D printer able to print big structures.

3D Printing on the Moon

The ESA (European Spatial Agency) plans to use the D-Shape technology on the moon. They want to send an automated 3D printer that will print a lunar base before sending humans to live and work in it.

3D Printing Stone-Like Objects

Above the beauty of being able to print several meters high or long objects, which is already great, the end result is a stone-like object. It is like sculpting without a hammer and a chisel. Enrico uses sand and a magnesium-based binder to get this amazing result.

The First Ever 3D Printed Bridge is in Spain!

The D-Shape technology was very recently used by the IAAC (Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, Spain) to print nothing else but the first ever 3D printed bridge!

Can you believe it? A bridge! Ok, that one is “only” 12 m long and 1.75 m large. But it is a real pedestrian bridge installed in a park in the south of Madrid, Spain. They used a slightly different material (a concrete powder with a thermoplastic polypropylene binder) but the result is still a stone-like bridge. Amazing job!

Is Your Child Crazy…or Not?

As I very often say to my son:

“The only limitation to what you can do is your own imagination.”

If you can think it, you can create it (or somebody else will be able to create it for you). If you have a crazy idea, you can either work on it right away, or you will see it done by somebody else in the months or years to come.

The speed of innovation is increasing exponentially.


So, parents, I have a personal request for you:

Please, never ever again tell your son or daughter that his or her idea is stupid or crazy. This “stupid” or “crazy” idea could lead her or him to revolutionize an entire industry.


Why 3D printing is a powerful learning tool for your child


A young student came up to me as I hovered over a 3D printer when it was churning out a model of a London double decker bus.

“This is a 3D printer?” she asked. “Yes, it is,” I replied.

“What’s it for?” she further asked. “It’s to exercise your brain!” I said.

Out of all the possible functions for a 3D printer, many of which are still undiscovered, I am firmly in the camp that believes 3D printers are a powerful learning tool for children, and for many adults as well.

I’m not talking about 3D printing geometric shapes, so children can better appreciate math formulas. Nor am I talking about 3D printed sculptures for art history, nor dinosaur fossils for paleontology. Of course, holding any of these 3D printed objects does add to the learning experience. But what’s even better than touching? Doing.

In fact, I always tell the children, as well as the adults, in my classes and workshops, “After you make this – fill in the blank- I want you to find a way to make it even better.”


To engineer and reverse engineer

When anyone makes anything, they can build it from scratch or reverse-engineer an existing product and improve upon it. In both cases, the more detailed the object, the greater the need for clear and deep thinking. When my student began to 3D model his London bus, he actually struggled to even explain its shape to me. What do you call that indented area of the bus next to the driver? But after a review of a photo, we created a plan of action and decided which 3D tools to use to create that section of the bus. We learn by making.


To test and re-test

Has there ever been any product in history that was created “perfectly” on day one? Of course not! The ability to run repeated tests is one of the great advantages of using 3D printers. Creating proto-types takes days, even hours, not weeks nor months. We can test and re-test our ideas much faster than traditional proto-typing methods. And with each re-test, you learn what works and what doesn’t work.

To think and grow

I believe the main users of 3D printing technology will be our children, just 10 to 15 years in the future. I also believe usage of this technology will be designed based, just like there are so many more creators using computers than computer manufacturers. Therefore, the time to educate ourselves, both adults and children, about design and the potential for 3D printing is NOW.

How a little empathy can produce huge results for children


It’s not a stretch to say that children can be impatient. If something is not moving at the speed of the electrons in their iPads, they lose interest. They just want the answers, now.

As parents, or in my case, as an adult teaching a group of children the click-by-click intricacies of 3D modeling after school, I need to strike a balance between getting them to learn the software and just showing them the answer, which is their default preference.

“Mr. Seto, how can I make this sword?” asked one. “Mr. Seto, can you do this for me?” asked another. “Sorry, think through the process and give it another try.” I’d usually say to their disappointment.


Last week, however, I put on my empathy hat and had a look at what they were trying to make. One was a double barrel shotgun and another was a Pokeball. I tried making both and finished each one in about 20 minutes.


When I produced the results in class, they were astonished and very excited. I asked them how long they were working on their models. Both replied several days. Then I asked the class what tools do they think I used to make these models. That was a magic moment. All the hands, of all the children, went up when they realized that they had already known the tools needed. Polyline, Spline, Offset, Extrude. They just needed a little guidance, which began with a little empathy.

The other magic moment came when, 15 minutes later, both of these boys stood up, arms raised and yelled, “I did it!”

Quick recipe for a customized pumpkin


Here are the tools I used in 123D Design to make this customized pumpkin. I made it for my daughter’s Halloween party at school this Friday:


To make


  • Sphere. For obvious reasons!
  • Draw rectangle. You need this to split the top and bottom of the pumpkin.
  • Extrude, merge. This makes your rectangle 3D.
  • Split solid. This does the splitting.
  • Shell. To hollow out the pumpkin.


  • Polygon. To draw one eye, nose and mouth.
  • Polyline. To assist the Mirror tool below.
  • Extrude, merge. To make the eye 3D.
  • Mirror. This creates a second eye.
  • Group. To link the eyes, nose and mouth together.
  • Move, rotate. To position the face on the pumpkin.
  • Extrude, subtract. To carve out the face on the pumpkin.

Name on back of pumpkin:

  • Text. To create my daughter’s name in the model.
  • Move, rotate. To position the name on the pumpkin.
  • Extrude, subtract. To carve out the name on the pumpkin.

Holes for handles:

  • Circle.
  • Move, rotate. To line up the hole position.
  • Extrude, subtract. To carve out the hole on the pumpkin.


Give it a try!

Don’t worry if you get stuck. We’re here to help!


Pumpkin 2

Drawing in 3D can help a child’s fine motor skills


At one workshop we ran at the recent Maker Faire in NYC in late September, we had four children, aged 6-7, learning how to draw a 3D table in 123D Design. Children that young tend to have some issues controlling the mouse and their resulting drawings are proof of that. The picture below shows how one child drew his table in 3D. While the table itself was easy to draw, each leg took on its own life.











We adults, who have spent years in front of a laptop, are all too familiar with where to point a mouse cursor. I guess we take it for granted that mouse control was also a learned skill.

When my daughter was just two years old, we were told that it’s important for children to develop fine motor skills. One teacher explained that there is a connection between fine motor skills and doing well in school. For me, at the least, if she can hold her own spoon, she can feed herself. And of course, holding a pencil is an obvious skill needed to learn your own written language.

Given this, I think most parents would agree with me that if they want to improve their child’s fine motor skills, drawing in 3D could be one way of doing this.