Erin Winick is the founder and CEO of Sci Chic. Erin is a science communicator and a recent mechanical engineering graduate. Sci Chic uses plastic and metal 3D printing to create science and engineering inspired jewelry.
Erin, could you let us know about your background and what brought you into 3D printing in the first place?
I have always been a maker at heart. As a kid, I loved making LEGO towers and sewing dresses. When I got into college, I immediately gravitated towards this machine that could create all of the designs I made on my computer in the real world. I was lucky to be able to have access to 3D printing throughout the entirety of my mechanical engineering degree.
What was your very first experience with 3D Printing?
I first encountered 3D printing in my Computer Aided Design class my freshman year of college. In that class, we learned how to use SolidWorks, and got the chance to 3D print a nameplate with spinning gears on it that we designed. I still keep it in my jewelry box at home.
Could you explain furthermore what Sci Chic is about and the services that you are providing?
Sci Chic’s goal is to show that science and engineering can be creative and fashionable, and engage young girls with STEM through 3D printed fashion. All of our pieces are paired with educational materials about the science that inspired the piece, as well as information about 3D printing.
We use plastic and metal 3D printing to create STEM-inspired jewelry and STEM fashion subscription boxes. Our design inspirations come from many areas of science and engineering including the phases of the moon, dragonfly wings, pi and the path of the Apollo 11 mission. We use a variety of PLA and ABS colors and filament types to create the plastic jewelry, and we 3D print the metal jewelry in steel and precious metals.
We have 2 subscription boxes, one for kids and one for adults that let young girls and women show off their love of science in a unique and fashionable way with a different STEM theme every month.
How did you come to build the company?
While in college I served as the president of UF’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. We started an event called 3D printing outreach day where we brought a group of students onto campus to teach them about 3D modeling and 3D printing. I saw how enthusiastically the girls responded to 3D printing and seeing a design go from concept to product. This gave me the idea to use 3D printing technology to engage girls in science.
I started creating the first jewelry designs when I got home from my summer interning at John Deere. I officially launched Sci Chic in October 2015.
Do you have any (fun or not) story about the company to share with us?
We have had a lot of awesome moments while running the business. Ranging from seeing young girls with a smile on their faces wearing our jewelry to having astrophysicist Summer Ash wear our jewelry on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s show, StarTalk, running Sci Chic has been an absolute blast. Hearing from parents is honestly the most rewarding part of running Sci Chic. One mom told us, “Our girls opened their Sci Chic January boxes today and loved everything! Loved the YouTube video and extra info on coding. This is a totally new topic for us so we had a great homeschool coding lesson for our Friday.” Responses like this keep us going.
As a woman entrepreneur, what was/ is your biggest challenge? Any challenge specific to the 3D printing industry?
I have definitely had to put a bit more effort into finding mentors in my industry. Women are minorities in entrepreneurship and STEM, so being a women entrepreneur in a STEM field has made me even more of a minority. However, I have found tremendous support as Sci Chic gained some traction. Many women in science have gotten behind what Sci Chic is building.
Anything exciting coming up you’d like us to know about?
Our biggest projects right now are making new designs for the subscription boxes and growing our subscriber base, and creating new permanent pieces inspired by different areas of science we have not covered before. We love collaborating with women in STEM from around the country for the design of our pieces.
What was the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
I am constantly amazed by the uses of 3D printing in the medical industry. Medicine is such a personal field since everyone’s body in unique. The ability to 3D print implants, prosthetics and tissue are incredibly impressive and areas where I think 3D printing will continue to have an impact for years to come.
What makes the 3D printing industry particularly interesting for you?
I love the ability to print products on demand for my customers. It allows for me to not have to create a large amount of inventory and customize the size and color of the jewelry designs for what my customers want.
3D printing is also letting my customers engage with the manufacturing of the product. This helps us spark girl’s interests in STEM by showing them the creativity and true art that is a part of 3D printing. I really think this lets us connect with girls more so than if we had out pieces cast or injection molded. We post time lapses and behind the scenes videos of our pieces printing to get these experiences across to our customers.
What do you think of the 3D printing industry today? And how would you like to see it evolve?
The 3D printing industry has been moving tremendously fast in recent years. The areas I would most like to see it evolve in are increased medical applications, cheaper metal 3D printing costs, and more consumer friendly options. Although desktop printers have been increasing consumer friendly, they are still more of a hobbyist machine. I would love to see them evolve eventually to the simplicity of a microwave.
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?
I think that being more open about communicating our work in the 3D printing world is crucial. I am a big believer in science communication and sharing your work with the public. 3D printing is such a visual medium, I think that showing the art and creativity of 3D printing will draw more girls into the field.
Thank you for reading and for sharing!