It’s Not About The Printer

Three dimensional printing in its entire scope, is not just about the printer. The same as photography is not about the camera. It’s about the photographs one creates.

The hobby is not owning the tool but rather how you use the tool.

Some people collect cameras. But that doesn’t make them a photographer. Owning a 3D printer doesn’t make one a creative genius. It just makes one an owner or operator. If you own many 3D printers, you are also a collector.

Downloading a STereo Lithographic (,stl) file from the internet, then slicing and printing it, makes one a machine operator. But not a design creator. 

This also makes that person a “Maker”. But that is not the same as an original creative designer. It’s the same as being a “Kit Builder”.

I have assembled many kits, from model airplanes to amateur radio equipment.

An electronics company named “Heathkit” created  a hobby of assembling their electronic kits. The hobby activity was the assembly process. No one buying and assembling a Heathkit device had anything to do with the design. Unless they work for Heathkit.

Yet, there is enjoyment in just making something. A kit makes it easier. It’s a good start to exploring one’s creative abilities.

Today, I personally enjoy my hobbies from the “start from scratch” early think, design, then build approach. But I started as an avid kit builder. Kits are very nice as there is no need to design or scavenge for parts. 

Kits are pre-engineered. They supply the material and instructions. Kits can help create the assembly skills and tools one needs later in the hobby experience.

My second amateur radio station equipment was all assembled from Heathkit kits. Building from kitted parts, I had to be good enough at following instructions, assembly, and soldering, that they would operate properly when completed. I got a lot of pride and enjoyment from the process. My station was all Heath and operated wonderfully.

3D printing is kind of the same thing. One starts by assembling the tools and learning how to use them. And that alone is fun and sometimes frustrating. Nothing in life ever runs perfectly from the start and works fault-free forever.

At some point the truly creative (meaning artist) person wants to design and make their own arts and crafts. Not just assemble “stuff” from others peoples genius thoughts and factory engineering.

The thrill in design engineering is taking something from an intangible idea and finishing with a tangible, fully operational, result. Could be anything and everything. Original design is what I love the most. 

But I love everything else in the process as well. I call the Item I just printed my “reward” at the end of the 3D print process. But the print may be the beginning or some component of another creative process.

As “they” say, “The beat goes on…

Since I do this as a hobby, I don’t have to “freeze” my design to get it into production. I always have the ability to make changes whenever I desire.

In building kits, there is a process called “kit-bashing.” One buys the kit (or several) to get the parts needed, then freely modify the build into what is desired. A short-cut to gathering components, then doing ones own design engineering.

There is no right or wrong way if you enjoy what you do. I don’t make or propose any rules for others to follow. Hobbies are personal and unless there is some sort of competitive award, no need for enforcing rules.  Rules are simply a form of measurement.

Unless what you do violates laws of man or nature or the “rights” of others; Or creates an undesired burden on you or anyone else, then just do it!

I can’t do everything I want, but I sure am enjoying trying. Some people actually like what I design and make. So that is not a bad result. 


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