Laura Griffiths – “Often the most interesting stories are those where 3D printing isn’t the primary focus”

Laura Griffiths is the Deputy Group Editor at TCT Magazine, the magazine for design-to-manufacturing innovation. Laura graduated with a Masters in Multimedia Journalism in 2014 and joined the TCT team as an editorial assistant shortly after. Now with four magazines in Europe, North America, Asia and most recently, a German-language edition, Laura spends her time producing content for TCT’s print and digital formats and attending events across the globe reporting on the biggest industry news. 

Laura, could you let us know about your background and what brought you into 3D printing in the first place?

I don’t come from a technical background but if I remember my application letter for the TCT job correctly, I said I could write and that I was a bit of a geek. So, my entry into the industry was by chance, it was my first full-time editorial job after completing my Masters in Journalism. I started as an editorial assistant armed with basic handle on 3D printing but after spending five days a week working through the many press releases this industry puts out (even more so around that time), you quickly get to grips with the technology and its many acronyms.

What was your very first experience with 3D printing?

I always wish I had a more sophisticated answer to this question but the first time I ever saw 3D printing was in Francis Bitonti’s Dita Von Teese dress back in 2013, which I thought was really cool but didn’t really question the how and why. The first time I saw 3D printing happen right in front of me was in my first week at the TCT office when our Group Editor, Dan printed a mini figurine on an UP desktop printer. It may have been just a trinket but seeing 3D printing in person helps you to understand the process and what’s possible.

You are the Deputy Group Editor at TCT Magazine. Could you let us a bit more about your job and what the TCT Magazine is about?

My role involves staying on the cutting edge of the latest news and trends, going to the myriad of events on the 3D printing calendar, site visits, etc. and reporting back on the latest technologies whether that’s through our print magazine, website or video content. Just last year, my first trip was to Las Vegas for CES and my last was to a shipyard in Rotterdam to see a giant 3D printed propeller – so it’s pretty varied.

TCT Magazine is now in its 26th year, which is probably surprising to those who still think additive manufacturing is a relatively new technology. We are the platform for design-to-manufacturing innovation and as the industry has grown, so too has the TCT portfolio with publications now across Europe, North America, Asia and most recently, our German-language edition. That goes hand in hand with our events and conferences in the UK, Germany, U.S., China, Korea, and it just keeps expanding.

Have you run into any challenges from being a woman in 3D printing?

I have never experienced a challenge in the sense that being female has never hindered my job. However, yes, I have experienced challenging moments, particularly post-trade show when the alcohol comes out along with the inappropriate remarks or unwanted touching. I don’t expect comments such as “Your boyfriend lets you come here?” or a grab instead of a handshake when I’m at a work event – it’s not a nightclub and it’s also 2018. It is most certainly not a universal problem, but for the few that think this behavior is acceptable, it suddenly makes you very aware of yourself and your actions. Whilst more people, such as event organizers, are conscious of the issue, recent events show it is still very much a problem but thankfully steps are being taken to change that.

This sort of behavior, as we are learning with movements like #metoo, is not exclusive to our industry and it doesn’t even have to be to this extreme. I used to work in a video game and electronics store and lost count of the number of times I would just brush off an innocuous comment. A particular favorite was always, “No thank you, I’ll wait to speak to one of the guys” when it was just assumed by a male customer that I wouldn’t be able to assist with a “technical” question. We can’t just brush off comments like that, in the moment they may seem harmless but they are extremely damaging in the long-term.

Our industry is supposed to be progressive but this archaic boy’s club mentality that seems to exist in the minority will ultimately hold us back. To let it continue is a complete disservice to the great women (and men of course) within it. I would urge everyone if you are uncomfortable in a situation or see this sort of thing happening, speak up, let it be known that it is not okay.

Anything exciting coming up you’d like us to know about?

We are always looking to the future and prospective markets and across the globe. We recently announced our partnership with JTB Communication Design Inc. with the launch of our newest event, TCT Japan, which will debut at Tokyo Big Sight from January 30th to February 1st, 2019. We are also currently accepting applications for the second TCT Awards ceremony, the industry’s most important celebration of design-to-manufacturing innovation. Applications close on June 1st so if any WI3DP readers have an exciting technology or application up their sleeve, we want to hear about it (link to awards: www.tctawards.com).
Later this month, TCT will head to Dallas for our second RAPID + TCT event and before we know it we will be back at our second home of Birmingham for our 23rd TCT Show in September. We have shows and conferences across the globe – the U.S. Europe, China, Korea and now Japan – and our Conference Producer, Charlotte Chambers is keen to hear from speakers, particularly women, who want to share interesting research or novel applications of 3D technologies.

What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?

The medical field has some of the most impressive applications of 3D printing and it never fails to astound me when I look at what we can currently achieve. I’m really interested to see where bioprinting will take us. Much of it sounds pretty far-reaching right now but we’ve already seen lots of successful research being carried out. The most remarkable I’ve come across recently was in a talk from the Shah TEAM Lab at Northwestern University on printed scaffolds for ovary implants.

What do you consider game-changing technologies in Additive Manufacturing?

We’re continuing to learn that AM is all about the entire process chain and within that, materials are becoming increasingly central. We discussed this at #3DTalk last year and the subject has been given an elevated platform in our magazines to reflect this growing interest. I also think open source is really important. The eNable movement is a great example of what can be achieved when people free up information and the social impact it can create. It’s also what much of this industry is built on, when Dr. Adrian Bowyer was inducted into the TCT Hall of Fame last year, it was heartening to hear Siert Wijnia, co-founder of Ultimaker, say that the RepRap Project was the reason his company exists.

What makes the 3D printing industry particularly interesting for you?

I feel fortunate to have come into the industry when I did, around the time when mainstream interest in 3D printing started to peak. Going off Gartner’s Hype Cycle, the industry found itself falling into a Trough of Disillusionment but that slope paved the way for more meaningful applications and technologies. There is always something new being developed and though we still get the marketing-heavy stories, it is having a tangible impact, even in places you might not notice. Volkswagen is using desktop 3D printers in its production line for tooling, for example, you wouldn’t have seen that a few years ago because desktop printing wasn’t for industry and tooling wasn’t a particularly sexy story. But these technologies are finding their place now, we’re seeing much less of technology for technology’s sake and often the most interesting stories are those where 3D printing isn’t the primary focus.

What do you think of the 3D printing industry today? And how would you like to see it evolve?

Last year we saw strong efforts from companies like GE putting their stamp on the industry with big investments and big machines, which is great. In addition to that, we also saw the smaller innovations that are going to have a real tangible impact on the industry, like materials and examples of automation. Whilst I love hearing about exciting plans for the “factory of the future” where there’s not a trace of loose powder and the floor is run by robots, it is important to be realistic about expectations in the short-term. Of course, we need big ideas and without a doubt, additive manufacturing is maturing, but I would like to see more baby steps being taken first in order to see these ideas through. Collaboration will help that happen and it’s good to see that the big players are on the same page in acknowledging that only by working together will this industry continue to move forward.

In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D printing?

Awareness and increased visibility of women in the industry. It’s important to introduce young people to STEM subjects early. I find it disappointing when big companies like Mattel try to do their bit and just miss the mark – Barbie can love science but only in her wardrobe, kitchen or garden, apparently. In contrast, some do get it right; SWE (Society of Women Engineers) launched a comic last year called Constance & Nano which is all about solving problems with STEM, while Lego introduced the women of NASA playset which went straight to the top of Amazon’s best-selling toy list.

When I was at school, engineering didn’t even cross my mind which seems baffling to me now because I was good at maths, science and design & technology. In education, we should be talking about these types of careers early so that young girls know they are available to them and alongside that, giving educators the tools to introduce industry-relevant skills into the classroom.

I also believe role models are important and whilst we want to encourage more women to come into the industry, we need to support the women that are already here by giving them equal career and skills opportunities. I hope that the young women we see coming into the industry today are going to be the ones in the C-suite as the industry progresses.


Thank you for reading and for sharing! By the way, you can subscribe to all the TCT news here. 

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