The learning process (I). Digital Manufacturing and Prototyping

What to learn

There are many disciplines here: from software to machines, including adjustments and material properties.

We start with software, and we don’t use only one. At least there are three:

  • Something for 3D design, usually Fusion 360.
  • Something for the 2D files (in the laser cutting), frequently Inkscape, but also Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator, or Freehand, whatever we use for vectorial files.
  • And another software for each machine brand, for the last adjustments and settings

For a professional design process, we need to include product design and manufacturing design. That last one is mandatory in CNC and very recommended for laser cutting.

Zbrush and Photoshop (with Inkscape) instead of Illustrator is also a possible combination. Zbrush is perfect for organic design and for artists, but for me, it’s something incredibly complicated, just a new challenge.

And, of course, you have to learn how to use each machine, it’s not very complicated, but there is always a fear of breaking something. That’s adding pressure that doesn’t exist with software. The course is useful, but the first time you are in front of the machine, it’s confusing, and you have many new doubts and questions.

And something more, there is a world of materials, providers, qualities, prices and sizes, properties, tolerances, and behaviours. How someone said, Modulor (a shop in Berlin) is an excellent museum to see the products, maybe but some samples. Buying online a new material is complicated.

There is a reality. Each one of these learnings is a profession. In Germany, for learning it, you need training of two years. We want to learn it in a 2–3-hour course. Of course, many makers have an engineering background, which helps with the vocabulary to learn faster.

In the end, we can learn how to use a 3D printer, but without the main concepts of design, we can’t do anything.

It doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to learn or become a maker, but we have to adapt our expectations to the knowledge we have. With some basic concepts, it is possible to solve many problems, designing and producing products and pieces. And that’s more than enough for many people. And that’s the main goal of many makers, like me. With more time, it’s possible to improve and to achieve more ambitious projects.

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