Christina Perla is Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Brooklyn-based 3D Printing company Makelab, known for producing high quality, affordable and fast 3D prints in just 4 easy steps. As a driven industrial designer and entrepreneur, the Pratt University Institute is passionate about seeing a concept turn into reality by bringing a model from screen to an object you can hold in your hand. At just 26 years old, Christina has already produced 3D prototypes for a breadth of big names ranging from Samsung to Ambivia to Boston Biomotion to AOL, Yahoo! and NYU to name a few. Past and current projects include 3D printing parts for self-driving car, prosthetic parts, prototype furniture pieces and architectural scale models. She’s also actively involved in educating today’s youth on 3D Printing as one of the fastest growing fields in technology through hands-on workshops, product demonstrations and informative tours of Makelab’s workspace.
Aside from Makelab, Christina is also Co-Founder & Creative Director for Tangent Design, an industrial design firm also located in Brooklyn.
Christina, could you let us know about your background and what brought you into 3D printing in the first place?
My background is in industrial design. I attended Pratt Institute for Industrial Design and from there, I’ve worked at Converse in the Accessories Design department, then a small wearable technology startup. While I was working at the startup, I began to freelance and eventually left my full-time job to freelance full time. From there, my partner and I decided to pool together our resources and form Tangent Design. Instead of both working in related industries separately, we decided to join forces. In this case, two was better than one 🙂
Tangent Design is our product design & development firm. We work with clients to realize their product ideas. At the end of the project, they walk away with material that helps them advance their products to the next level.
What was your very first experience with 3D Printing?
My first experience with 3D printing was actually with the wearable tech startup I worked at. We were prototyping a small wearable safety device and it had a bunch of undercuts. We ended up making something like a 10-part 3D printed mold where we were going to cast silicone in. It was crazy complicated, like one of those 3D puzzles you get in the coin slot machines at the store. That experience showed me how simple it was to create with 3D printing.
Could you explain furthermore what Makelab is and the services that you are providing?
Makelab is a Brooklyn-based rapid prototyping company servicing clients in all areas 3D printing. The main industries we tend to range from jewelry to automotive, electrical, architectural and most recently interior design. Frequently we get requests from NYU students. It’s exciting to see a variety of people in different sectors embracing 3D Printing.
What 3D Printing technologies /process do you use? And why?
We have our Standard line of materials that are produced on desktop 3D printers, but we also have our Pro+ line of materials. Pro+ is geared more for engineering and an appearance models and produced on industrial machines.
For our standard materials, we offer a variety of plastics and resins including ABS, PLA, resin. For our Pro+ line, we offer nylons, full-color sandstone, resins, and even glass-filled nylon for a stronger print. The reason why we offer so many materials is because each project has a different need & each printer can offer a different quality of materials.
How did you come to build the company?
When my partner, Manny, and I began Tangent, we utilized this great 3D print shop’s services, 3DUniPrint, for client projects and prototyping. About 1 year later, they had a situation where they had to leave & wanted us to takeover their company. We of course accepted and thought of it as a way to expand Tangent and under both companies, offer complete and full service design. Three months after we acquired, we re-branded and changed the name of our company to Makelab; it seemed more fitting to our goals, message and culture.
Have you run into any challenges from being a woman entrepreneur in 3D Printing?
I’ve experienced micro-aggression of sexism- whether it be people not speaking to me directly in meetings where my partner Manny and I are both present, or whether it’s a shock that a woman is Co-Founder of a manufacturing tech company. I’ve been lucky to not have experienced major instances where blatant sexism has occurred. I hope I never have to. But most of the time, I don’t feel a disability by being a woman in tech and in 3D printing.
Anything exciting coming up you’d like us to know about?
We will soon be launching our sample kits for sale on our websites. Each sample kit will go towards a discount off of someone’s first print and gives everyone an overview of the materials we offer along with material specs & design guidelines. It’s a full and comprehensive handbook to printing with us!
What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
We recently did a project with Oath (a subsidiary of Verizon Communications that serves as the umbrella company of its digital content subdivisions, including AOL and Yahoo!) where we had to bring these branded orbs to life. They are all different colors, different shapes, different anomalies. It would have been absolutely crazy to create without 3D printing. It’s so impressive what a large, industrial printer can do for the entertainment and advertising industries.
What do you consider game-changing technologies in Additive Manufacturing?
Multi-material printers. Those are a huge game-changer for additive manufacturing. Anything with two types of plastics in different hardnesses you can now print. The most blatant example of this is a toothbrush. The soft vs the hard plastic. For the entertainment/advertising industry, full-color sandstone will forever be the game changer. No more stepping, no more painting. All it may need is a finishing coat in either gloss or matte & you have a perfectly printed prop! Another is metal 3D printing. Typically metal needs to be either forced, spun, poured, and needs to be manufactured in a very specialized environment with tons of special equipment. Now it’s able to be done utilizing 3D printing.
What makes the 3D printing industry particularly interesting for you, as a business owner and a designer?
As a business owner, it’s incredible not to be held back by anything, anything at all. 3D printing allows for anything to be made. Things that would normally take days or even weeks to be made, now only take a few hours.
As a designer, it’s incredible to be able to prototype quickly and test-fit parts together.
What do you think of the 3D printing industry today?
I think it’s interesting. What is consumer-facing is only half of it. This is a technology that has been around for decades but has just gotten trendy recently with the evolution of desktop printers. What is perceived as being capable in 3D printing is really just scratching the surface of 3D printing. I think customers are really starting to understand the true value of 3D printing with more information being exposed about industrial 3D printing. Every customer we’ve consulted with about our Pro+ material leaves with a smile, feeling so much more informed about the technology and how it can help their designs or models.
Thank you for reading and for sharing!