In 3-D Printing Discussion, One Dimension Is Left Out

Last month, The Denver Post published an article titled, "Prosthetic hand crafted on 3-D printer may open doors for Denver girl," highlighting incredible new technology in prosthetics. 3-D printing is giving people around the world new hope, in particular Denver Center of International Studies at Fairmont student Ana Del Hoyo-Quiñones.

Rick Glesner, professor and program chair of Engineering Graphics & Mechanical Design at the Community College of Denver, added his thoughts to the Denver Post article by stressing that for Colorado to realize growth in 3-D printing and advanced manufacturing, we must also develop 3-D modeling talent to make it happen. CCD is doing just that with our Engineering Graphics & Mechanical Design program. Read his article below and learn more about this significant, interesting, and growing field.


I was moved by the generosity of Clay Guillory, the mechanical engineer who created a prosthetic hand for Ana Del Hoyo-Quiñones with a 3-D printer.

I was also moved the nine-year-old girl's spirit. 3-D printing is truly an amazing technology, and we have only begun to see the possibilities.

The wonderful world of 3-D printing has brought the democratization of micro-manufacturing to society. It is a rare week that I don't read an article, see something on the Internet, or hear a podcast expounding on the bright future of 3-D printing.

However, as a professional in the field, I'm concerned when a crucial step is left out of the discussion: 3-D parametric solid modeling. Without first creating the underlying design in 3-D space (Cartesian X, Y, Z coordinates), there is nothing for the 3-D printer to create.

What was known as drafting in "the old days" has evolved from using T-squares and pencils to very powerful, computer-driven 3-D software and 3-D modeling. This modeling software is used by drafter/designers to convert engineers' ideas into a program that tells the 3-D printer specifically what it needs to do.

Without this software and model, the 3-D printer cannot make anything.

On one level, I'm happy to see 3-D printing held up as the bright and shiny example of science fiction dreams becoming tangible reality. On another, I worry that by omitting information about how 3-D printers rely upon 3-D solid modeling, today's youth are deprived of valuable information about an exciting career path to the first step of the advanced manufacturing revolution.

A book I recommend is "The Art of Product Design: Changing How Things Get Made," by Hardi Meybaum, in which the author suggests that 3-D modeling software will "one day rank alongside Gutenberg's printing press among truly epoch-making technologies."

For Colorado to realize growth in 3-D printing and advanced manufacturing, we must develop 3-D modeling talent to make it happen.