Say hello to Wayne Huthmaker, Pinshape’s designer of the month for November! You may have heard of the Zebra Plate, but did you know Wayne is the founder of PRINTinZ and designer of the plate? We learned how rapid prototyping changed how design worked for him, and how he pushes the boundaries of difficult 3D prints!
Pinshape: How did you first get into 3D printing?
Wayne: About 15 years ago, I worked for a company that used a large laser sintering machine for prototyping consumer products. The guy that operated the system was a friend of mine, so he would print machine and tooling parts for me when he could get them into his schedule. I worked in manufacturing operations and having this machine available to me fundamentally changed my approach to design. I could test ideas quickly and inexpensively without waiting to get everything machined and assembled, only then finding out there was a problem. I knew this technology was going to change everything. I had been following the development of 3D desktop printers and when they became available for reasonable prices, I knew I had to have one.
Pinshape: Why did you start PRINTinZ?
Wayne: I started PRINTinZ, initially, as a 3D printing retailer. Soon after purchasing my first printer and diving into the forums, I saw that users had a great many concerns. One common problem, which I was also having, was an inadequate print surface. Drawing on my manufacturing experience, I started experimenting with alternative materials to use as a print bed. Over the next year, I finalized the flexible plate design and introduced the Zebra Plate™. So PRINTinZ™ has evolved and now specializes in print surfaces in addition to carrying printers and accessories. Our Mission Statement is, “making 3D printing more enjoyable and productive.”
Pinshape: What is your program of choice when it comes to 3D design?
Wayne: I use Solidworks for the majority of my design work because I have used it for over a decade designing automation and I know it well, but I also use Rhino when I need a little more flexibility. I’m proficient with Adobe Illustrator as well and I have used it to begin a design in 2D, and then moved it to Solidworks to extrude it into a solid and modify it more. I use Meshmixer to add support structures or tweak complicated designs, for example the chain link iPad stand. I wish I’ll have the time to learn a tool like Blender someday!
Pinshape: How do you decide what to design next?
Wayne: One of the fun parts of trying to market the Zebra Plate™ is coming up with interesting things to print, such as objects that will capture the eye and also demonstrate the versatility of the product. My machine design background lends itself towards more practical designs rather than artistic or organic objects, but even everyday objects like a light bulb or a running faucet can be eye catching. Seeing what appears to be a real light bulb balanced on end makes you pause and look twice.
Pinshape: You’ve definitely explored ways to print difficult prints on 3D printers. What are some learnings you can share with makers?
Wayne: Sometimes you have to prototype the prototype. I’ve taken just bits of a design and printed it separately to see how it will work. For example, I will test a fit between two parts, and then build the mating areas back into a larger assembly. While 3D printing creates new possibilities for developing a design quickly, FDM printing, specifically, also creates limitations by requiring you to build up from a bottom surface and be aware of overhangs. I’ve learned not to get too hung up on making a design in a single printed piece. I will break something into multiple parts and print them separately rather than waste time trying to print a full assembly in one shot.
Pinshape: Do you have any advice for someone just starting off in 3D design?
Wayne: First, decide where you want to go with it. If you are going to do creative, artistic work then make sure you choose software with lots of organic capabilities, like Blender. If you want to do more functional, mechanical design work then you’ll need something that allows precision and the ability to develop assemblies. Trying free software is a good way to start and make sure you have a long-term interest before committing to a purchased design program. Some of the programs are quite expensive and require considerable time for training.
Pinshape: Anything else you want to share with the Pinshape community?
Wayne: I’d like to share the appreciation I have for the 3D printing community. I’ve been fortunate to interact with amazing people from around the world who all share a passion for pushing the technology envelope. They are tech savvy professionals with big ideas and creative minds and I’m proud to call many of them my friends.
Check out Wayne’s Designs!
Thanks to Wayne for sharing his experiences with us! If you’d like some neat designs (with a few difficult designs that’ll really test your hand at 3D printing, as well as your printer), check out PRINTinZ’s Pinshape page!
Until next time, Pinshapers!
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