About Brian Xu

Freshman in Electrical Engineering passionate about 3D printing.

Week 3: Inspiration=Innovation


This week, we attended a Design Thinking Workshop hosted by Design for America-UIUC. The DFA is a network of student organizations that works to train young minds in the creative process and/or hone their skills for a future in innovation. In the workshop, we  observed and made the steps necessary to provide good output(an effective product, design, etc.) with our input(creativity, experience, etc.). While many new innovations can be said to result from “out of the blue”, it never hurts to have a plan or buildup to that innovation.

The process described contains two main principles: understanding and creating. Understanding is the passive planning stage where one can observe and research more about a problem or issue to better identify a solution.The creation portion is the more active prototyping/design phase where the innovator takes what they have learned about the issue and puts it into an actual product. This is not only limited to 3D prints or physical objects, however, and can be represented by any means that will effectively resolve the issue at hand such as a service, advice, or other non-tangible goods. While everyone does indeed have their own creative process; these steps offer a suitable guideline for the innovator to utilize their skills and resources to create something. This framework has been canonized into businesses and markets as “Design Thinking”.

By utilizing this process, my team and I created a logo for ourselves. First we identified what we wanted: a logo for the three of us that would incorporate our last initials(L, A, and X) and a team name. We decided on a triangle as the base for the design as they were three of us. Next, we subtly added our initials by taking out different sized portions from each side of the triangle. Finally, we decided upon our name: “The MakerLAX”.



The demand for expertly skilled designers and problem-solvers has grown since the start of the digital age and addictive manufacturing. According to TNW, https://thenextweb.com/dd/2017/02/10/create-maintain-strategic-approach-design-thinking/ many companies are seeking to the ability to unlock the ability to think like designers and apply the same principles of the design process to the actual workplace. While having an experienced designer with a powerful creative mind is key, it’s even better to be able to have the critical thinking and prowess as well. Being able to posses and understand a skill allows one to appreciate it more from someone else, and even harness it themselves. They also mention “creating a team as diverse and international as the clients that you serve”. By having a team of crafters with different backgrounds and experiences, it is easier and more fruitful to innovate designs and solutions to the problems at hand. While the concept of design thinking is powerful and beneficial, some have used it in malpractice. As the huffingtonpost puts it http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/rethinking-design-thinking_us_589b504ce4b061551b3e066a “the current proliferation of a one-size-fits-all-approach is not only ineffective, it could ultimately doom [design thinking’s] future”. Design thinking is a powerful tool that allows one to transform their inspiration into innovation, but some utilize haphazardly in a way that presents it as oversimplified or short-term. Creating something out just an idea takes time, effort, and most of all: passion. One who does not truly care for a problem cannot effectively solve it. It’s also a misconception that the creative process provides a quick and easy fix on the first try, which is more than usually not true. Often times solutions need to be modified due to inefficiency, unforeseen issues, or just a desire for a better design. Design thinking is incredibly useful and has been taking off in the recent years, but everyone, not just innovators, must not fall prey to misconceptions like these. The world has gone a long way in the road of innovation to the point where it is constructing it themselves, but it must not build itself into a corner.

Week 2 Reflection: Introductory work in 3D Printing and our first prints!

In our first week of class, we had learned about the applications of 3D printing and real-life examples of how it was used. This included establishing businesses and services for extremely specific uses of 3D printing like creating custom handgrips for wheelchair racers, to establishing a MakerLab in a library to teach young children the creative process and expose them to the technology. This week, we explored the process of the 3D printing from file to print. We were explored various file-sharing websites such thingiverse and myminifactory, as well as the similarities and differences of each. We created our first prints and most turned out successful. For mine, I chose a whistle that came in several pieces that could be assembled post-printing.
3D Printed Whistle

3D Printing has been around since the 70s, however, it really did not “take off” with the general public until around 2010. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see 3D printers in homes and schools, and many companies are beginning to produce them to compete in this exploding market. However, most of these printers are designed for personal use. While it is true the 3D printing can, has, and will revolutionize the world; there are some facets to it. The timeline of creating a physical object from a 3D printer varies on many things from the actual design, the printer, whether the file was created from scratch or found, etc. It’s a common misconception that 3D printing is quick, which is why it good for manufacturing. This, however, is not the case(most of the time). Even the simplest of prints can take relatively large amounts of time. The whistle linked above fits in the palm of one’s hand but took approximately an hour and a half to print. The only real way to be efficient with 3D printing in manufacturing is to have multiple prints running on multiple printers at once, and even then the process is relatively slow. This is why most businesses that run strictly on the basis of using 3D printers for creating parts are relatively small and really only appeal to specific consumers. There are large companies such as Stratasys that use and produce 3D printers for prototyping and design in the industry, but those printers are extremely high grade for industrial use. 3D printing has been booming since its arrival to the general public, with some going as far to say that 3D printers will become a household staple like microwaves and televisions in the near future. While I believe this to be true, it most likely won’t happen for quite some time. The 3D printing revolution is like the process itself: it’s slow, takes some time to perfect, and may be delayed unexpectedly, but will eventually get done in the end.

As for what can be created by 3D printers, objects such as tools and replacement parts that are printed out of necessity or desire for improvement are common choices. An example would be paper scissors http://www.thingiverse.com/make:171977 I had printed this because I could not find the actual pair. While they are fun to use and printed nicely, they are flawed because they only cut paper and will eventually wear out overtime without any way to properly sharpen them. I approved upon the design by adding a custom nut and bolt that was not included in the original. Another useful design for projects was this epoxy mixing bowl http://www.thingiverse.com/make:172339 It was easy to print and works great, the only thing I would really improve is widening the base slightly. Another design that worked excellently with little need for improvement is this toothbrush holder http://www.thingiverse.com/make:172705 Once again, an easy print that served its purpose. The only thing I would change is perhaps make it symmetrical as that curved side on the left was a bit difficult to print. The last design is a photographic sweep stand that I used as the background for all the pictures of the prints that I had created subsequent to it http://www.thingiverse.com/make:172705 It worked ok and was easy to assemble, but the paper was held rather loosely, and some sheets that I attempted to use could not be properly held in place even though the arms were adjustable, but that may be due to mishap in the printing process. All in all, these are 4 designs that I have printed for personal use and around the living space, while they may not necessarily be perfect, they get the job done and show off the capabilities of a household printer.