Shweta Thapa is a mechanical engineer, educator, and co-founder of 3Ducators. 3Ducators is a nationwide nonprofit initiative to encourage the maker community in providing affordable SLA 3D printing solutions (DIY) & applications (art, craft, jewelry, prosthesis) accessible to communities.
Shweta, could you let us know about your background and what brought you to 3D printing in the first place?
I’m a Mechanical Engineer, graduated with my masters in Mechanical & Aerospace Engg. From Rutgers University. My thesis project involved me in making a biomedical lab 3D printer for fabricating & simulating biopolymers, that’s where it all started!
Can you tell us more about that very first experience with 3D Printing?
When I made a fully functional bio 3Dprinter, getting it to print something using DLP was a fascinating process. Watching the 3D printer solidify the resin one layer at a time was mind-blowing as it was making a completely new layer with microscopic precision. That drew me into 3D printing & still fascinates me to date.
Could you explain furthermore what 3Ducators is and the services that you are providing?
3Ducators is an educational platform for empowering communities with the knowledge & hands-on application of Design thinking with 3D printing technologies. We conduct workshops, training & professional development on 3D printing with different community organizations, also help them with their hardware & software needs.
How did you come to build the company?
Once I graduated from school, I realized that the power of 3D printing could make a difference in the everyday lives of people from giving them assisted living to usher their dreams in healthcare or fashion. The same year in November 2017, I met a Rutgers’ Marketing Professional by the name of Rahul Anand, really passionate about 3D printing as well. We were already discussing making, making as a community, making chocolate 3D printers, prosthetics, a huge open source DLP 3D printer that would help makers to 3D print high-quality designs in the most affordable ways. Then, we approached our professors in school for counsel & they gave us an incubation space in Rutgers to start working on our projects & involve more students with this amazing idea. November 2017 we officially formed the company, and the very next month received the regional NSF I Corp grant for building the open source DLP printer.
What are some of the challenges of the industry you are trying to resolve with 3Ducators?
The 3D printing industry has given us innumerable options for getting different machines, materials, etc. but it doesn’t tell you which machine is best suited for your application or how to use a simple 3D printer or how you could use open-source software to design a simple object & 3D print anything. We are the bridge that educates individuals to be able to 3D design or print anything, anytime, anywhere.
How has the company been perceived so far?
The company is doing great in spreading awareness about 3D printing & involving communities in 3D printing activities for social good. A fairly decent job in surprising people with our 3D imaging platform for scanning kids heads 😉
To date, what would you say is your greatest achievement in Additive Manufacturing?
I am being able to build a switchable resolution DLP resin 3D printer for making biomedical polymers/jewelry/any resin.
Do you have any (fun or not) story about the company or your career to share with us?
Making of 3ducators, especially the name, initially it was perceived as edutainment, people would approach us for having our service in parties for making something magically. We never thought of that previously, but that led us into developing our 3D imaging platform to scan individuals & make their little bobbleheads.
Have you run into any challenges from being a woman in 3D Printing?
3D Printing or rapid prototyping is a male-dominated field, so every day is a hustle among “know it all’s,” no doubt, as a woman, however, I feel more valued to be in the field because this is a niche field, quality oriented & needing a lot of patience. You have independent machines to play with, no challenges as such when you know you are “breaking the stereotype.”
Anything exciting coming up you’d like us to know about?
We are exhibiting our 3D imaging platform & running 3D printing workshops in the upcoming maker faires namely Maker Faire Miami, Maker Faire Bay Area, Maker Faire New York, NOMCON 2019
What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
3D printer printing micro resolution biomedical stent
What do you consider game-changing technologies in Additive Manufacturing?
DLP resin 3D printing, CLIP(Continuous Liquid Interface Projection), SLS
What makes the 3D printing industry particularly interesting for you:
- As an engineer?
The ability to figure out new developments to existing 3D printers, smarter materials, making intelligent designs.
- As a woman?
The ability to make printing a beautiful & thoughtful experience, making a difference to the world with meaningful solutions in healthcare, foresee a better future with this technology in fashion, jewelry & artistic designs.
What do you think of the 3D printing industry today? And how would you like to see it evolve?
It’s new, raw powerful & addictive for rapid prototyping & instant gratification needs. It’s a time-consuming process when you want to manufacture a big part but slowly & steadily we will come with more intelligent & faster machines capable of delivering high-quality 3D prints. Also, they will become more user-friendly & not have as many problems.
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?
If girls are given more hands-on learning opportunities while in school, exposed to 3D printing with an application-oriented approach, they will enjoy & embrace technology at an early age. For women, an entrepreneurship approach with 3D printing, they could be future jewelry makers, educators, artists, designers if they learn to use 3Dprinting & a printer as an everyday go-to tool.
Favorite 3D tool (could be a software, machine, material…you name it)? 3D pen(3D simo) it’s a stress buster
Favorite moment in your day job? When I design something that has to snap together & the 3D print works out!
What’s on your 3D Printing wishlist for the next 5 years? A Carbon 3D printer to make things fast