Jessie likes to think of impossible as [usually] a state of mind. With sheer determination (and lots of coffee) she lives for challenging impossible things.

In elementary school, Jessie was fascinated with the universe and also directing her 4 cousins and sister in an elaborate family puppet show production. By high school, she loved physics and anatomy, but couldn’t get enough of set construction and stage management of her high school theater. In college, she was determined to become an engineer but found herself equally passionate about her job as a stage carpenter and volunteering in both stagehand and light board operator roles. It’s no surprise she co-founded a company that pairs game-changing 3D printing technology with the demands of the theater and film industries.

3D Printing Education, Powered by Bravura 3D, is focusing on serving the creative industry. They specialize in providing creative professionals with the knowledge and tools to take their art to the next level, thanks to 3D Printing.

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

My background is in Mechanical & Industrial Engineering. I also have spent time studying various programming languages. From as far back as I can remember, I have really enjoyed making things. I’ve always been a curious person and grew up really interested in figuring out how computers worked. I was always the go-to person in the family for fixing the household computer (guess I’m dating myself here), although occasionally, I would break it. One time, in an effort to create more storage on the hard drive, I accidentally deleted the operating system (oops.) I guess I’ve always bounced between being creative using physical mediums and using software/firmware. When I became aware of 3D Printing during the early RepRap years, this seemed like a perfect match for me. I think I first heard of 3D printing while reading an article about sustainability and turning plastic bottles into filament. This was at a point in time when I had reached a realization that I was at heart, an entrepreneur. There seemed like so much opportunity in this new space and it just seemed like such a perfect fit.

What was your very first experience with 3D Printing?

My very first experience with 3D Printing was actually building a filament maker with my co-founder, Brian Alls. I was pretty naive in thinking that desktop printers were reliable and easy to build, so I thought the best market opportunity was in building a machine that could re-use scrap 3D printer filament. Since then, we have really explored the ins and outs of 3D printing with respect to hardware, firmware, software, and finishing. We’ve also spent a ton of time really understanding what our customers need and how we can best impact their work and their lives with 3D printing.

Could you explain furthermore what 3D Printing Education is about and the services that you are providing?

At 3D Printing Education, we strive to make 3D printing education accessible for everyone across almost all industries. There is some great educational content out there involving 3D printing, but we are taking it much further than that. We are developing project-based courses that teach you what you need to know about 3D printing in chunks without technical jargon. In addition to the educational platform, we’re building a digital marketplace of items specifically catering to the creative market.

How did you come to build the company?

The company grew out of Bravura 3D, the parent company, which more broadly delivers 3D printing solutions. After doing extensive market research, we noticed the specific need for better and less technical education involving 3d printing technology for people in non-related industries, such as film and theater. We’ve been operating 3D Printing Education since early March of this year (2017).

Do you have any (fun or not) story about the company to share with us?

My favorite story is a warm and fuzzy story about the collaborative nature of the 3D printing industry. So, Brian and I were at MRRF 2017 (Midwest RepRap Festival) and we were exhibiting at a table right behind B3 Innovations, our favorite extruder maker. So, when they told us they were coming out with a brand new extruder we were very interested in testing this thing out. They actually had one of the prototype extruders with them and we convinced them to let us try it on our printer; the catch was that we had to install in there on site. So we did. We thought we’d brought the right tools, but we found out mid-install that we did not. However, what appeared to be a tricky situation turned into an amazing one when all of these other makers at the show came over to offer tools and to help us out. What would have been a multi-day job turned into a 2-hour project. It was absolutely amazing. I had never been more proud to be a part of the industry.

As a woman entrepreneur, what was/ is your biggest challenge? Any challenge specific to the 3D printing industry?

Being a woman in the industry, or any technical or mechanically-inclined industry for that matter, certainly comes with frustrations and challenges. I’ll come straight out and say that there are far too few women in the field. I can count the number of women who work in 3D printing on one hand. When I introduce myself in a professional setting, more often than not, the people I meet are in disbelief when I say I am the co-founder of my company and, yes, I was an integral part in designing and building our 3D printer. I mean this just shouldn’t be the case. I think expectations of what my company can produce from some potential clients and investors are different than what they expect from a man and there are challenges associated with that. I look forward to the day when I’m viewed as exceptional because of my accomplishments, not because of my gender.

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

We’re excited to be working with some well-known individuals in the creative space very soon. I can’t talk about it too much, but it’s going to be awesome 🙂

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

I’m blown away by 3D printed organs. 3D printing has been so impactful in the medical field, in general, but we’re really seeing the future in 3D printed organs. Never before have we imagined actually MAKING an organ. This will eliminate the need to grow organs in other animals and painful skin grafts among other awesome things.

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

  • As a business person?

It’s still so young and there’s so much opportunity for growth.

  • As a woman?

This was a hard one. I do think that when many companies make products, they model them for the average man. An example might be a garden hose. I like to garden, but a standard grip on a garden hose is too large for me and it is uncomfortable to grip. 3D printing makes it more economical to offer products in various shapes and sizes.

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

I think the 3D printing industry has changed in the past 10-15 years, from being totally proprietary to largely open sourced. I do believe, as a whole, the industry is trending back towards closed sourcing many aspects of it again. I really see this as treading in tricky waters. On one hand, open sourced development has enabled the rapid growth of, especially, FDM technology, from rickety, laser cut, much lower-precisioned machines to sleek, much more reliable, super highly-precisioned machines. On the other hand, closed sourcing and commercialization is a much more viable model to reaching more people and customers and providing awesome solutions. I would really like to see the 3D printing industry evolve into a kind of, hybrid model; where we do protect proprietary company information that is particularly beneficial to effectively deliver our products and solutions but to collaborate and work together on things that are not. And to not withhold information for longer than it benefits the company. I think a lot of companies hoard information simply for the value of IP and while it might benefit the company to some small degree, it hurts the community and society as a whole much, much more. We need to remember that we’ve only had the incredible advances in 3D printing we’ve seen in the past 15 or so years because we worked as a community, together.

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

I really think it has to start as young as possible. If I wasn’t so stubborn in pursuing my dreams, I can remember many instances in my childhood where I would have been dissuaded from doing so. It’s not just about throwing STEM at girls, it’s about taking away the negative influences as well. Part of is teaching boys to treat girls with respect and as the equals that they are. Making sure that K-12 teachers, especially teachers in the STEM disciplines, are both teaching this equality and especially not dissuading girls from taking future STEM classes. Include spacial learning and coding in the curriculum starting from Kindergarten. I’m not an expert, but reflecting on my experiences growing up, these are my suggestions.

Thank you for reading and for sharing! 

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