Get Involved with 3D Printing in Chicago

3D printing, small scale manufacturing, product design software, and engineering and prototyping, are joining the conversation on technology and entrepreneurship in Chicago this year.  Here are seven ways to participate:

Consider Opus, a portable iPad stand and amplifier designed by Northwestern University student Sanjeet Das.  Sanjeet created his product this summer at Innovation Factory, an idea incubator and product design lab in the west loop.  Opus hit a roadblock before moving from prototype to manufacturing, only 2.7K was pledged out of a 10k Kickstarter goal, but the crowdfunding model remains an interesting way to bring a cool gadget to the market.

You can print your face in 3D at the 3D Printer Experience downtown.  The 3D Printer Experience opened in April, 2013 with a scan-and-print-your-face-in-3D-service and now they also run workshops with a bevy of small scale manufacturing machines for you to use.

If you’re interested in investing, there’s Quirky, an online shop for inventors with a community that votes on what ideas go into production.  If you want to go into production right away, you could create a 3D skull or some other ghoulish shape for Halloween and open a shop on Shapeways, a website similar to Etsy that’s devoted to 3D printing.

Join the internet of things at GE Garages and create a weather clock at a free workshop.  GE Garages is a manufacturing pop-up shop that will be located at 401 N. Michigan Avenue through October 20th.  Inventables, a Chicago-based hardware store for designers, is a GE Garages partner.

Print an iPhone case at the Maker Lab at Harold Washington Library.  While you’re at the library, you can also get advice on software, technology, and and entrepreneurship from the Geeks in Residence from Public Good Software.

Food.  3D Systems, one of the largest publicly traded companies specializing in 3D printing is adding 3D printed food to the company’s list of specialties.

If you don’t want to start from scratch, download customizable patterns for chains, power strips, nuts and bolts on Thingaverse.  MakerBot runs competitions on Thingaverse on occasion, and prizes range from printing filament to opportunities to feature your product in the MakerBot store.  MakerBot was acquired this summer by another 3D printer giant, Stratasys, for $403 million.

With Chicago’s long history as a manufacturing town, the conversation on 3D printing has potential to grow along with the city’s tech sector. ❒

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