Maker spaces & 3D printers: How will it affect model making?

May 27, 2014

I recently attended the 21st Association of Professional Model Makers Conference that was held in San Jose, California. The APMM conference is a gathering of model makers from all over and from many different disciplines. There were people from as far away as England. There were model makers with backgrounds from architectural, product design, furniture design, government, military, and even from the motion picture industry.

Some of the highlights from the workshops were:

  • Bruce Wiley led a discussion on the maker movement that is taking place and we discussed how it will affect the model making industry. There was discussion about the ways that model makers can embrace and use maker spaces to help their industry. There were examples of other model makers who have had success partnering with a maker space in their area. With the elimination of many of the visual arts and shop classes in many schools, we are losing an important talent in our young people. People are not learning how to make things and how things work. This is also the case with the increase in people wanting to learn through the use of makerspaces. Many people have an interest in making things and fixing things and this is a great way to take classes and use equipment without a large investment in equipment and space for tools.
  • I attended a workshop on detailed laser cutting. Learning tricks for the new equipment that we added to our capabilities at Design Concepts.
  • There was a round table session discussing about different 3-d printing systems. We discussed cost, material, advantages and disadvantages of the different technologies. The hope is to start a list that APMM members would be able to use while shopping for a new system.
With the elimination of many of the visual arts and shop classes in many schools, we are losing an important talent in our young people.
  • We discussed career development and where we think the model making industry is headed. With the emergence of low cost 3D printing and the rapid changes of technologies, it is important to stay on top of the technological changes. It is still a consensus that 3D printers are not a replacement for model makers but just another tool that can be used to improve the models that we make.
  • There was concern among many of the model makers that a lot of the graduating students are no longer learning “hand” skills. Graduates are learning computer skills, but are not being exposed to hand tool, sculpting, and problem solving skills. I heard from many people that they are having trouble finding employees with these talents. There are a lot of skills that are dying with the older generation. I think that this could be a problem in the future with school budget cuts.

The keynote speaker of the conference was David Kelly of IDEO. He discussed design thinking and the importance of telling a story to their clients. He showed some of the early models that were made of the mouse for Apple. It was interesting to hear all of the thought and experimentation went into designing the shape of it. He stressed the importance of learning how things are going to be used. He shares many of the same views of product development as Design Concepts.