Stop me if this sounds familiar. You are interested in 3D printing but lacked a clear idea of what was involved. Every time you looked into it, it returned to the back burner because after spending your limited free time researching, it still looked like a part time job just to get up to speed on the basics. If this is you, then you’re exactly the reason I say the following: despite 3D printing being more accessible than ever, getting started remains harder than it needs to be. It’s a shame, because there are smart, but busy, people just waiting for that to change.
A highly technical friend and colleague of mine had, off and on, been interested in 3D printing for some time. He had questions, but also didn’t have a very good understanding of the basics because it’s clumsy and time-consuming to research something when one doesn’t even know the right terms.
I told him to video call me. Using my phone I showed him the everyday process, from downloading a model to watching the first layer get put down by the printer. He had researched getting started before, but our call was honestly the first time he had ever seen a 3D printer’s actual workflow, showing hands-on what was involved from beginning to end. It took less than twenty minutes to give him a context into which he could fit everything else, and from where he felt comfortable seeking more information. I found out later, when I politely inquired whether he had found our talk useful, that he had ordered a Prusa MK3S printer later that same day.
It got me thinking. What from our call was important and useful, but not available elsewhere? And why not?
Here Are The Important Questions
When it comes right down to it, the problem is one of basic information not getting where it needs to be. Basic 3D printing information for a busy hacker doesn’t mean “what can a 3D printer make?” They already know that; it’s probably what got them interested in the first place. Basic information means answers to questions like:
- What does the actual workflow of 3D printing look like? What happens from beginning to end?
- Does it look like something I can and want to do?
- How much of my time, money, and desk space will it need?
- What else will I have to buy besides what comes in the box?
- Does it have special needs, like unusual power or specific maintenance?
- Are there any side effects to deal with? Noise, mess, or unpleasant smells?
These are the practical and high-level things a curious technical person needs to know. Such a person is already familiar with the kinds of things 3D printing can do, they now want to know how it can fit into their lives and what it will cost in time, money, and hassle.
Sadly, I found a real lack of easy to find 3D printing resources that present this information in a hacker-friendly way. Most of what I found was piecemeal, overly specific, or fragmented. Even busy hackers will find the time to research and learn things on their own, but it’s more effective if they can get the right tools up front.
Making Info For Busy Hackers
Here is the kind of up-front information a curious and free-time-strapped person will find most useful:
- An overview of how a technology works, from beginning to end
- What the important parts of it are called
- What those parts do
That also happens to be a generally useful method for presenting information in a hacker-friendly way. It provides even a busy hacker with a toehold, and interested folks can and will take it from there all on their own.
For 3D printing, this kind of information just doesn’t seem very easy to find. Some experimental Google searching came up with a mishmash of junk, much of which was intelligible only to experienced 3D printer people anyway. None of it was very useful for answering the really important questions I outlined above.
3D Printing Can Be for Busy People
I think there’s an opportunity here. If you are making introductory information about 3D printing, don’t forget to present things in a hacker-friendly way and try not to make assumptions about what your audience already does or doesn’t know. That doesn’t mean diving into spirals of ever-deeper detail, it means taking a step back. Focus on showing what’s possible, what’s involved, what is out there, and what things are called so that people know what to look for when they seek out more detail on their own. It’s the only thing holding some of these folks back from mashing a BUY button.
3D printing is more accessible than ever but there is still a lack of what I call “3D printing for busy people.” Any resources that do this are nowhere I, nor my friend, were able to easily find, and that’s a shame. Do you know of a favorite resource that would be a great primer for busy hackers? Don’t keep it to yourself! Share it in the comments because it absolutely deserves more visibility than it currently has.