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An Interview with Tom Hazzard, Hazz Design Consulting

We have had a lot of opportunity to talk to people from around the 3D printing industry who are involved in many interesting activities inside of it. Our interview subjects range from engineers to educators, and from artists to newcomers and many other types, too. In this most recent segment in our Expert Interviews Series we connected with Mr. Tom Hazzard of Hazz Design Consulting. Tom and his wife Tracy are a husband and wife duo who had a background in design before incorporating 3D printing skills into their skill set. The couple have more than 35 utility and design patents to their credit, and also find time in their busy consulting schedule to record their podcast called the WTFFF?! 3D Printing Podcast which comes out Monday-Friday. The interview was conducted via email and the transcript is below.

1) How long have you two been involved with 3D printing? What prompted you to do so?
We’ve always been early adopters, and as designers, we’re always looking at what’s new in our world. We started using outside 3D print service companies to 3D print our designs in early 2009, but have been 3D printing our designs ourselves for more than two years. We also have a lot of experience designing for traditional manufacturing, and while it’s possible to manufacture fairly complex and sophisticated designs in a traditional setting, there are limitations. 3D printing intrigued us because we felt we could do some things from a design standpoint that aren’t really possible in a traditional setting.

2) Prior to this, what types of designs/designing did you focus on?
Most of our work has been in furniture, furnishings and technology accessories—for office, home and home office settings. We still do that kind of work, and get a lot of satisfaction from it, but we’re excited by 3D printing because of the ability to expand our capabilities and experiment in new and different ways.

3) Do you own a 3D printer yourselves? If so, what kind and what kinds of things have you printed? If not, do you plan to purchase one in the future?
We actually own two—a Makerbot 5th generation printer and a Leapfrog Creatr HS. We briefly had an Airwolf HD2x as well. We use the Makerbot for single color prints and the Leapfrog for dual color prints, or prints that need dissolvable support. We print our own unique designs of fashion accessories, the most recent and notable one is our 3D Twist tie (a necktie) that won an international 3D print award.

4) What do you think are the distinct advantages for a business or individual who choose to invest in 3D printing technology?
Obviously customization is key—they are great for taking a mass designed product and personalizing it by adding a 3D printed component. Or for producing one-of-a-kind objects.

3D printers also afford the ability to test designs and concepts more immediately than traditional manufacturing does. That is one of the primary uses we’ve seen in the design world —no matter how accurate you think your design is on the screen, even experienced designers like us encounter surprises when something is actually produced. Whether the scale, or a missed flaw or an unintended outcome. With a 3D printer, you can test a design in real-time, which is not as easy with traditional manufacturing.

5) What do you think are some of the most common design mistakes you have seen people make with 3D printing?
We have seen many people assume that if they can design something and print it on a 3D printer, then it can also be made with traditional manufacturing processes. Unfortunately, many things can be made on a 3D printer that cannot be made the same way through traditional manufacturing. We find a lot of people jumping in and learning this the hard way.

We also find a lot of designers underestimating the time it will take them to design and successfully 3D print an item. So many designers who quote delivery dates to their clients do not build in enough time and end up delivering late. This also means that many designers are under-charging for their design time because it usually takes more time than they expect to complete the work. Too often they end up spending many more hours than they quoted and do not increase their price, effectively reducing their hourly rate. Although this might seem an individual problem, the ramifications hurt both designers and our clients

6) Could you speak a little bit about some of the barriers you think newcomers face getting into the industry?
The technology itself can be daunting, and sometimes the applications for business aren’t obvious at first glance.

Sometimes it’s not really barriers to entry, but barriers to success. The lack of clear, well-thought out business strategy seems to cause people to stumble just as often. What we’ve seen is that a business owner or an inventor will buy one because it’ so cool, or appears it will give a competitive edge, then be completely overwhelmed by the amount of ramp up time they will really need to reach the point where it becomes a cost-effective tool. It can offer some great options for business, but the entry needs to be well thought out.

7) As 3D printing has moved further and further into the mainstream, there has been a big push to incorporate into education at all levels. What do you think schools and colleges/universities can do to foster this "maker" generation?
We have three daughters, two of whom are under the age of 7, so this is a subject dear to our hearts. Our six-year-old is simultaneously learning to read, to use a mouse, and to work with the 3D printer. We know the U.S. has a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education deficit. We really espouse the STEAM philosophy’that Art must be incorporated into STEM education to enhance the science and technology side with creative thinking skills. 3D printing really incorporates this STEAM idea—you need the technology side and the creative thinking side to maximize the potential it offers.

Already design schools have incorporated 3D printers into their studios all over the country. So have many engineering schools in their lab spaces. But it’s the same phenomenon we faced in college when CAD was first being adopted by designers. I taught myself CAD in the studio, but there wasn’t anyone to teach me how to think about it as a designer, how to approach design with the CAD platform in mind. The same is now happening with 3D printing. They’re in schools, colleges, but the adoption isn’t widespread enough for there to be professionals with the experience to teach it. Once we hit that tipping point, I think we’ll see more emphasis, more courses, more universal adoption in schools that can afford them.

8) Where do you think we will see the field of 3D printing in the next 5-10 years? Will a 3D printer become as ubiquitous as an inkjet is today?
3D printing for business and personal use will continue to expand at a very fast pace, become more common and practical. However, we believe it will take longer than 10 years for 3D printers to become as common as inkjet printers. The biggest hurdles to achieve that goal are the availability of quality content to print, and the ability for average computer users to be able to easily customize that content to meet their needs. Many companies are working on solutions to meet this need so that you do not need to be a CAD technician to create something to print.