Leona Hu Hudelson is the Founder of Airgora, a community, and marketplace for discovering exceptional physical product designs. Previously, she led the web experience design effort for Autodesk’s high profile design/manufacturing products Fusion 360, A360 and Pier 9 Workshops. She has designed software products and branding for companies including Apple, SAP Labs, Google, Matter, and LUNAR. Her work has won the Red Dot Design Award and has been featured in Smashing Magazine, TechCrunch and Design Made in Germany. Leona is Architect by training and Product Designer/Developer by trade. She designs and programs interactive things in pixels and spaces. She is passionate about the future impact of data science and machine learning on product design.
Leona, could you let us know about your background and what brought you into 3D printing in the first place?
I am an entrepreneur who has worked as a designer and developer. Prior to founding Airgora and working in technology, I was trained as an architect in school. That’s where I learned 3D printing and other methods of new manufacturing technologies such as laser cutting and CNC.
I have always liked tinkering things since I was a child. My free time was always filled with building aircraft models, assembling toy robots or race cars. My hobbies were further carried on in my school, where I spent nights and weekends in the rapid prototyping shop CNC milling chairs or experimenting with new 3D printing materials.
When I joined Autodesk as a Senior UX Designer few years ago, one of the best perks is the free access to the covetable Pier 9 workshop. I took all the classes offered there including training on a Haas CNC mills and an industrial standard waterjet machine. One of the projects I created at Pier 9, a lighting installation piece, was exhibited at the Oliver Gallery in Oakland.
What was your very first experience with 3D Printing?
I printed a miniature Vitra Tom Vac chair that I 3D modeled from scratch. It was for a school project. It was a painful learning experience as I had adjusted at least five times my 3D model to be watertight. It was a tough learning experience, but also really rewarding.
Could you explain furthermore what Airgora is and the services that you are providing?
Airgora is a community marketplace for professional designers and emerging brands to promote their physical products. .It’s similar to Etsy, but for professional design studios or small consumer product companies to showcase their portfolio, or sell their products directly.
How did you come to build the company?
I founded Airgora last year after leading the design for Fusion 360, a cloud based 3D CAD tool for manufacturing and product design at Autodesk. Throughout my design career, I have worked with numerous industrial designers and firms. I saw a visible problem for designers to promote their design services to hardware companies and consumers. On the other hand, I have been constantly asked by many entrepreneur friends who founded their hardware startups to recommend designers and firms. Many of these entrepreneurs come from business or engineering backgrounds, they relied on manufacturing consultants or their connections to identify designers. At the same time, many less notable industrial design firms or designers can only rely on self-promotion at trade shows, design competitions or cold-calls to get contracts.
How is 3D Printing used by the designers featured on Airgora?
Many designers on Airgora not only use 3D printing to prototype, but they do sell well-designed products that are manufactured in 3D printing technology.
3D Printing is more widely adapted than even a few years ago. Mainly because the technology is more affordable and easy-to-use thanks to a competitive market. Although most of the designers still use foam-core, cardboard, and many transitional prototyping materials and tools to prototype, 3D printing allows them to explore more complex geometrical forms. 3D printing also makes the design and production more efficient by accurately realize the object based on the 3D models.
As a designer yourself, how have you been using 3D Printing so far?
I use 3D printing for prototyping and creating fun objects, like a mini version of myself as a business card holder. Whether is utilizing the extensive open source online or creating an original model, 3D printing gives the possibilities for anyone to create any objects.
What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
The 3D printed bridge by MX3D in Amsterdam. It’s exciting to see 3D printing not only transforms product design industry but large-scale civil infrastructure too.
What do you think of the 3D printing industry today? And how would you like to see it evolve?
We published an article on Airgora’s SHOWCASE magazine about some of the most sought after products designed and manufactured in 3D printing technology.
The implications for 3D printing are far reaching, and in the near future, we expect to see additive manufacturing on a mass scale, leading the way for sustainable, well-designed products with affordable price tags. In the meantime, there’s already plenty of cool design to ogle that has been 3D printed.
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?
By forming an inclusive community like Women in 3D Printing will help women already in the industry to bond and connect. Education is critical too among little girls by gaining their early interests.
Thank you for reading and for sharing!