Corporate makerspaces have become little-known leaders in innovation, workforce development, and creativity, and are also often the starting point for corporate additive manufacturing adoption. Audrey Van de Castle is the Industry 4.0 Upskilling and Maker Initiatives Manager at Stanley Black & Decker, Inc., and while she is an advocate for all tools and manufacturing methods, she has been an educator and advocate for 3D printing since she first laid eyes on it in 2014. Audrey is a Baltimore native and started her career in making by studying metalworking and blacksmithing at Hampshire College in Western Massachusetts. After graduating, she managed The Foundery (a makerspace in south Baltimore) for four years before coming on at Stanley Black & Decker to start and run their first ever Makerspace. Recently, she has expanded her role at Stanley Black & Decker, maintaining high-level management of their Makerspace and taking responsibility for upskilling 30,000 plant employees with Industry 4.0 skills. Audrey also sits on the board of A Workshop of Our Own in Baltimore as well as the advisory board for the Digital Fabrication major at Carrol County Community College.
Audrey, could you let us know briefly about your background and your journey into Additive Manufacturing?
I started learning about 3D printing back in 2014 when I was in the process of turning the makerspace (which was mostly welding and metalworking) I managed into a full-blown makerspace with all the capabilities you can imagine. We were moving into a space 20 times the size of our previous space, so we had room to expand our offerings. I was really impressed with just how easy it was to pick up and learn on consumer printers and with resources like Thingiverse, and I began teaching it as a skill in 2015! The first printers I ever used were the FlashForge Dreamers, and currently I am working with a Lulzbot Taz6, Prusa mk3s, and a Desktop Metal studio system. I generally print in PLA – because it is so easy! I have done printing in some unusual materials like carbon fiber, and I love using the Desktop Metal system to print in stainless steel.
What is Stanley Black and Decker Industry 4.0 Upskilling and Maker Initiatives and what is the story behind it?
My role at Stanley Black & Decker is pretty cool. I started with the company in 2017 to open their first employee Makerspace in Baltimore, MD and moved to managing the Makerspace as well as a crowd-sourced innovation program. Now I have high-level management of the Makerspace as well as working with our manufacturing population (30,000 people!) to structure and implement how they will learn Industry 4.0 skills and incorporate them into their work processes – like 3D printing! Stanley Black & Decker also has a Corporate Social Responsibility pillar around Empowering Makers – so I am closely tied with many activities related to that.
Our goal is to empower 10 million makers by the year 2030!
We do lots of educational work with Discovery Education to get middle school and high-school aged kids interested in STEAM careers, and we also have outfitted makerspaces in countless schools and communities with our tools. We did a ‘Virtual Field Trip’ in the Makerspace with Discovery Education, where we showcased 3D printing along with other techniques – you can catch it for free online here.
To date, what would you say is your greatest achievement in Additive Manufacturing?
That’s a tough one! I think I would have to say the amount of people who I have taught about 3D printing. So many times, people are hesitant to learn about 3D printing because they think it’s hard or complicated, or that you have to know how to 3D model to be able to do it. The reality is that these days it is pretty easy to pick up and go, at least with consumer-grade printing!
I love seeing people realize “Oh, I CAN do this!”
Do you have any (fun or not) story about the company or your career to share with us?
One of the cool things we have done in the Makerspace is build a BattleBot. We are on the latest season – check us out: Mammoth BattleBot. It’s actually the largest bot to ever have competed on the show – over 6 feet tall! It was a lot of fun helping build it and really rewarding to see it in the ring.
Have you run into any challenges (or opportunities) from being a woman 3D Printing?
You know, I haven’t really had many issues with being a woman in the 3D printing world, especially compared to some of the other skills that I know and teach. The 3D printing world is certainly male dominant – but I feel like the ingrained sexism that you see in other male dominated skilled fields (like welding) isn’t there because it is still a relatively new field.
I feel pretty lucky that I am in the position I am in, because by being in charge of a space I can change perceptions of what people should look like when they are in a shop.
I’m thankful that I am respected for my skills, and have been able to build a very inclusive community and culture.
What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
I am still super impressed by metal printing. I started off in fabrication in metal – welding, blacksmithing, etc, so to see metal printers in action is SO COOL. I also really love medical uses for printing – there are so many possibilities opened by 3D printing!
What advice do you have for women looking to get started in 3D Printing?
Take advantage of the resources available to you! If you are in school and can learn there, do it! If you aren’t in school, there are tons of resources online that can help get you started. It’s really not hard to get going, and can turn out to be super rewarding. In our Makerspace, we use Thingiverse to get people started finding models and getting people to imagine what they could make. You can even find community mods for your SBD tools! I also really love Instructables, and I would highly encourage anyone interested in getting into making and additive to find your local makerspace to start off!.
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with Additive Manufacturing?
I think there is a lot of power in leading by example.
I always make it a point to be present and speak up – being a role model for kids to look up to is so important.
I also think that making sure schools, after-school clubs, and summer camps have 3D printers (and the know-how to use them) is a great step. I have volunteered here in Baltimore to teach the Boys and Girls Club how to use their printers – and now all their kids are printing up a storm! For these kids, this may be their only exposure to 3D printing at this age, and an interest in it could be life-changing for them!
Favorite 3D tool?
Virtual Reality! It is so fun to model in VR and then print it out!
Favorite moment in your day job?
Helping others learn something new.
What’s on your 3D Printing wishlist for the next 5 years?
Being able to use it in large scale manufacturing – more accurate prints at a faster speed!
Another inspiring woman you’d like us to interview?
Jessie Greenwell! She runs the Industrial Design prototype shop at Stanley Black & Decker!
Gabriela Trueba – CEO of WOMP