I often get asked where I get my ideas. My standard answer is, “Red wine and dark chocolate.”

That has some truth to it, of course, but I also generate some ideas just by playing with forms. Sometimes that means putting things together in the studio, or playing with some of the magnet sets I have (you might be surprised what you can create with magnets), but often I create sitting in front of the computer.

In fact, that’s how I got involved with 3D printing. For many years, I’ve used CAD (Computer Aided Design) software to create designs that I can then see in 3D and place into photographs of the locations I’m asked to create work for. It allows me to change colors, orientation, etc.

So when I first heard about 3D printing, I realized I  was part way there. That’s because it all begins in CAD. That’s where you make the .STL file that the printer uses – after some other manipulation – to print the file.

That fact is often omitted, which is why 3D printing seems even more magical than it is, and it already seems pretty magical! Yes, to create something that can be printed on a 3D printer, you need to have a computer file that contains the initial instructions that go to the printer.

So when I got my first 3D printer, a Cubex, I couldn’t wait to print some of the forms I had already designed and, in some cases, created in steel.

My first CAD program was Alibre. I got a screaming deal on it (it’s been too many years to remember how long ago that was), and then kept updating. I taught myself how to use it, and once you’ve invested all that time …. well, you know.

Then Alibre got swallowed up by 3D Systems, which owns Cubify and which also made that first printer of mine. In fact,  I bought the Cubex through Cubify because I thought I’d get better continuity and support. I don’t know that it made any difference, actually, but it made sense at the time.

So Alibre became Geomagic. There weren’t many if any changes at first, so the learning curve was easy. There have been a few updates since, but nothing I couldn’t adjust to.

Now, though, I’m upping the ante. I’ve downloaded an evaluation copy of some software called Rhino. It calls itself “3D modeling software for designers,” so I guess I qualify. This, however, is a whole new learning curve ….

I’m working on it, and look forward to a more detailed post about software. Stay tuned ….