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An Interview with Janet Fouts, Tatu Digital Media

ask an expertNew technologies, by their very nature, have the ability to not only change the way things are done, but also to inspire others to embrace and use them for the greater good. This is the case of our next interview where a chance to see 3D printing up close and personal provided the impetus for someone to invest in the technology and to do something meaningful. We connected with Janet Fouts, CEO of Tatu Digital Media through a recent HARO query about how consumers are using 3D printing technology in today’s world. A chance encounter with someone from Enabling the Future, a group that helps 3D print hands for those that need them, inspired her to invest in the technology and to start 3D printing hands for the group.The interview was conducted via email and our questions with her answers appear below:

1) When and how were you first exposed to 3D printing and technology?
I've been oggling 3D printers for the last 2-3 years, since the bay area Maker Faire, but I couldn't justify the expense to print toys and gizmos.

2) What made you decide to purchase a 3D printer? What make and model of 3D printer do you currently own?

I met a representative of Enabling The Future at a conference I was speaking at, and I was o excited to see what they are doing. Not only did it inspire me, it gave me the reason to make the investment. I bought a dual head FlashForge creator pro a few weeks later.


3) What software are you using and what types of materials? Have you thought about expanding at all moving forward?
I use Simplify 3D to create, edit and manage my STL files. I print with PLA and ABS, and I've just ordered some PLA with Carbon Fiber with the idea it will make part even stronger. I've been considering their materials like flexy but haven't made the jump yet.

4) What types of things have you printed to this point? How did you get paired up with Enabling The Future?
I've printed some basics, like cell phone charging docs, fan covers for the printer, miscellaneous toys, organizers for my tools, but those wre mostly to learn on. Now I print hands for Enable the Future. Once I met John Wong at the conference and he showed me how the hands were changing lives I was hooked. It's so easy for us, once we know how to print, to make a huge difference with very little investment on our part. It's hugely fulfilling.

5) How satisfied would you say you are with the quality of what it prints? Now I'm very satisfied. Even though I'm a bit of a geek the learning curve was challenging.Parts didn't stick or got stringy, I made a lot of rookie mistakes. Now I'm feeling really good about the quality I can print.

6) What types of issues have you had with your printer, if any?
Mostly rookie stuff. Now I know how to take it apart and unclog nozzles, get the print bed REALLY level, etc. The only continuing issue is not being able to use the USB port to print from my laptop. Some say that has to do with the power source being too near the USB but I'm printing from an SD card and that works great.

7) How hard was it to learn to use effectively and efficiently?
see #5

8) Based on experience, have you thought about integrating it into your business, Tatu Digital Media at all? Why or why not?
I've thought about printing gifts for clients and such, but it's not really a big focus for us.

9) What are your future plans as far as 3D Printing is concerned?
Printing more hands and learning to design my own products. I will invest in a 3D scanner shortly and then I'll be more flexible in what I can create.

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