Mathilde Berchon is an independent consultant specialized in communications strategy for the 3D printing industry at her company FuturFab and mentor for makers entrepreneurs on MakingSociety.fr. She is the author of “Le grand livre de l’impression 3D” (Editions Eyrolles, 2020) and Women in 3D Printing’s Paris ambassador.
Mathilde, could you let us know about your background and what brought you to 3D printing in the first place?
I discovered 3D printing through hackerspaces and the maker community while living in San Francisco, California, back in 2010. It was love at first sight. I started a website called MakingSociety.com to document my discovery journey and decided to look for cutting edge French startups in the field to work with.
Can you describe your very first experience with 3D Printing?
I backed the Printrbot kit on Kickstarter when it came out and built my first 3D printer at home. I started printing a few parts from Thingiverse and also got help from members of Noisebridge hackerspace who helped me get better results. I learnt a lot by doing things myself and with others.
From you experience working with makers and being involved first-hand in the movement, you launched MakingSociety.com. Can you tell us a bit more about this platform?
It’s a website dedicated to helping makers entrepreneurs, with a strong focus on sharing resources and information from experts to help makers wanting to make a living from their creations. Since moving back to France, I now focus mostly on the French version of the website: MakingSociety.fr
You’ve also wrote the first book in French on 3D printing for a general audience: “L’impression 3D” (Ed. Eyrolles), which was a best-seller in its category. You just released your third book, “Le Grand Livre de l’Impression 3D” a few weeks ago. What are some of the takeaways of the book?
“Le grand livre de l’impression 3D”, also published by Eyrolles Edition, covers all aspects of 3D printing, from processes to applications, modeling software to finishing techniques. It combines technical advice as well as strategical insights to understand the most recent developments in the field, regarding the role of 3D printing for building a world in transition and thinking the future of fabrication. It’s a book written for designers, artists, engineers, entrepreneurs, managers or executives interested in working and creating with 3D printers.
You are also Women in 3D Printing Paris’ ambassador. What can you tell us about Paris’ community?
The Women in 3D Printing Paris community is made up of a very interesting and passionate group of women. They are engineers, researchers, designers, marketers and entrepreneurs. Some have been in the field for many years and some are just starting.
Before the covid, we were meeting in Paris cafés or visiting innovation spaces almost every month and the group was rapidly expanding. Since the covid, we use a dedicated Whatsapp group to keep in touch. It’s been very useful to inform and support each other at the peak of the crisis since many of the women in the group worked with hospitals to design and produce parts for the health professionals.
Why did you decide to become a Women in 3D Printing ambassador?
I’m very grateful to be a Women in 3D Printing ambassador. It’s a great way to meet other like-minded women and help create a safe space for supporting each other’s careers and projects. The association didn’t exist when I started working in 3D printing as a young woman and I had pretty challenging experiences, specifically at tradeshows and events. As an ambassador, it feels great to empower women and help raise awareness.
To date, what would you say is your greatest achievement in Additive Manufacturing?
That would be my first book. It became a best-seller in its category and I received many messages from readers thanking me or who decided to quit their job to start working in the 3D printing industry !
Do you have any (fun or not) story about your career to share with us?
Plenty! I worked in a makerspace in Paris for 4 years, called TechShop – Ateliers Leroy Merlin. Every day, we had hundreds of designers, engineers and makers using the space to create prototypes.
We organized multiple hackathons and creative events where 3D printing was used to prototype neat inventions. I remember more specifically of a workshop called Efabrik where a group of teenagers designed a custom handle for a person in a wheelchair who had trouble reaching for their backpack. I love how 3D printing can make people collaborate together and quickly come up with efficient and ready to use solutions.
Have you run into any challenges from being a woman entrepreneur in 3D Printing?
Yes, tradeshows for example can be quite a challenge as a woman. I heard many inappropriate sentences over the years, sometimes even while speaking on stage.
Anything exciting coming up you’d like us to know about?
I’m preparing a full online program for french makers entrepreneurs that will be available in the coming months at MakingSociety.fr. Stay tuned.
What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
3D printing in the medical field is such a game-changer. I often like to think about the hundreds of thousands of people walking around right now with a 3D printed titanium and ceramic hip implant or custom tooth. 3D bioprinting for skin reconstruction is coming up and will change so many lives as well.
What do you consider game-changing technologies in Additive Manufacturing?
Additive manufacturing is a key to addressing climate change by reducing the amount of resources we need to produce parts, reusing materials and producing parts on demand. Generative design software combined with recycled materials and a tight network of local factories can have a major impact to create the production shift we desperately need.
What do you think of the 3D printing industry today? And how would you like to see it evolve?
So far, the 3D printing industry is still a niche industry, mostly working as an additional option on top of the existing industry. It transitioned from prototyping to producing final parts, thanks to materials and processes innovations. I would like to see the AM industry evolve towards designing new production models taking full consideration of the challenges we face with climate change. We need all brains and hands on deck to show how 3D printing can be used as a smart tool for a successful circular and regenerative economy.
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?
I think it comes down to showing young girls how STEM can be fun and interesting, and women that there are plenty of career opportunities in this fast-growing field.
Events, talks, books, workshops, shows are all great ways to spread the word that we need girls and women to help invent the future of creation. 3D printing is such a new set of technologies for humanity, the road is fully open to imagine uses and develop innovations that can have a great and positive impact for people all around the globe.
Favorite 3D tool (could be a software, machine, material…you name it) ?
Favorite moment in your day job?
Creating easy-to-understand content out of complex multiply-sourced information
What’s on your 3D Printing wishlist for the next 5 years?
An affordable FDM printer integrating a plastic shredder and extruder to print from recycled plastic at home
Another inspiring woman you’d like us to interview?
I think you know them all 😊 Juliette Prebot, medical 3D printing engineer, working at Bone3D and designing parts for hospitals on site since the covid.