Why you want your family involved in 3D printing

I was fortunate enough to present at last weekend’s Maker Faire in Hong Kong. This was the first time that Hong Kong ran a full fair, so I was very excited. Spread out across the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus, about 20,000 visitors explored some uniquely Hong Kong DIY exhibits, performances and presentations. I thought the color dragon exhibit made of lights, Timely Hong Kong, where each light represented an emotion, was the best.


In my own presentation, entitled, 3D Modeling/Printing: a new type of family entertainment, I really wanted to explain why we believe families will enjoy making things using 3D printing technology. Here’s a brief summary:

  1. Emotional. This is very easy to see. Any parent who already enjoys cooking, handicrafts, or outdoor activities like fishing and camping with their children already understands the joys these activities can generate. Customizing an object using 3D printing technology only heightens the uniqueness of this bonding experience. Once that model is made and printed, it’s forever the parent and child’s own co-creation. The more intricate the model, the deeper the bond.
  2. Intellectual. Children as young as four or five begin to learn the basic shapes of squares and circles. Creating 3D models takes it to the next step because squares are now cubes and circles are now spheres. But more important than this, children, and even adults, will learn that these cubes and spheres actually have a functional purpose in this world. Cut a sphere in half, hollow it out and you have the beginnings of a cup. If children can benefit from learning fine motor skills, like proper penmanship, imaging the possibilities of learning to draw in 3D!
  3. Practical. It’ll be mom or dad’s birthday next week, so how about 3D printing something totally unique for the occasion? You will save yourself lots of time running through malls and shopping centers for a gift that may or may not exist. Furthermore, as children learn how to design and 3D print objects from a particular industry, they could learn from an early age which industries are the most appealing. At the least, the exposure will give them an idea of what they might like or dislike, and they will be exposed in a fun and constructive way.

At the end of my presentation, a 5-year old boy, Milton, joined me on stage to examine some of my 3D prints. Which was his favorite? The pink jack-o-lantern I had created for my daughter for Halloween. (You can learn how to make one here.) He wants one with his own name on the back. So in just the first few minutes, it’s already an initial step towards this new type of family entertainment.



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