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Chicago, IL
Free Apps Drive Chicago Artists To Create And Print In 3D

By TJ McCueSunday, July 13, 2014
3D Design, 3D Printing, Consumer, Reality Computing

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Chicago Artist, Adrian Stein, has this quote, author unknown, on his website and I found it provocative and representative of the passion and enthusiasm I’m finding across the USA.

“Hearts are wild creatures; that’s why our ribs are cages.”

Chicago is an energetic city with its fair share of makers, inventors, designers, and artists, and many of them came out for the 3DRV meetup or reached out to say hello. There is an easily available passion here. People share. They create and share. The one thing these three artists/makers have in common? They all have used the free Autodesk apps, from Tinkercad to Meshmixer, to create something they could then easily 3D print.

Adrian Stein is a student and artist at the Art Institute of Chicago. Inspiring to talk with, Adrian gets your mind racing about the possibilities in 3D design and 3D printing. In this short video, he tells me how 3D printing is reducing, to potentially eliminating, the gap that exists between what you can imagine and what you can create -- when you leverage the tools now available. We talked for about 20 minutes in one of the grand rooms in the Keith House, where the reality computing meetup was held. A room in a house that was obviously built by someone with Adrian's type of imagination -- high ceilings, intricate trim, and design that would have been elegant, maybe decadent, for the time period. He has a blog on Tumblr.

In the photo gallery that starts this post, you'll see some images of pink earrings, those are from Chicago artist and creator, Michiko Romm who joined us at the meetup. She emailed me to explain the images:

  • The first image shows the earrings that I designed & modeled in Autodesk's Tinkercad app.
  • The second image shows the earrings being 3D printed in the Makerbot Replicator at the Harold Washington Public Library Innovation Lab.
  • The third image shows the lab tech ready to scrap off the earrings from the backing support material that is printed out on the Makerbot build plate.

Tom Burtonwood was on the meetup guest register, but was unable to attend the event. He and I have been having a conversation via Twitter and via phone. In and around makers, Tom’s name is frequently mentioned. I was disappointed we could not meet in person this time, but so glad to make the connection as he is doing some impressive work. Tom is using a whole range of software tools to do his work, including Tinkercad, 123D Catch, and Meshmixer. He offers a good primer called the Beginners Guide to 3D Printing on one of his sites: Learn 3D Printing.

His main site, as well as his Tumblr page for his six month artist residency at The Art Institute of Chicago showcases his work and the 3D printing hardware / software he uses. He recently completed a 3D printed book “Orihon” featuring 3D scanned artifacts from museums including AIC and The Met, has been exhibited nationally in San Francisco, New York, Houston, Baltimore and Chicago. The book has been acquired by several libraries and artists book collections including MIT, Yale University, Occidental College and The Joan Flasch Collection at SAIC. 

The last image, Orihon (3D Printed Accordion Book) by Tom Burtonwood, is courtesy of his website.

Another maker and inventor, Arthur Ingraham, was not able to join us in Chicago for the meetup, but he’s doing pretty novel work with 123D Circuits, another free app, that lets you design, compile, and simulate an electronics project online. I just had to mention his hobby of building guitar pedals – because he is doing it as a way to fundraise for an adoption from Haiti. You can check out a few of his creations at his Facebook page, TailoredFX, and help spread the word to your musically-minded friends who might want a custom guitar pedal. 

After spending a week in Chicago, I couldn't help but be impressed with each of the makers, inventors, and business owners I met. Between the Reality Computing meetup, hosted by IMAGINiT Technologies, and the informal gatherings I had at Pumping Station One, there was plenty of opportunity to get the pulse of 3D in Chicago.

I’m headed to Detroit next with some time hanging out with the folks at Ford, a makerspace or two, and the fun folks at RoadTrip Nation who are also traveling around the USA interviewing experts in design. If you haven’t seen the RoadTrip Nation program on PBS, you’ll want to visit their website and learn more, particularly if you have a college-age or college student in the family who is trying to find their own road in life. The folks at RTN have done a terrific job of helping students embark on the path of self-discovery. 

Follow along at! #3DRV

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