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Jennifer Herron
Jennifer Herron
Jennifer Herron is the owner of Action Engineering, a company that specializes in the promotion, process development, and standardization of a 3D CAD Model-Based Environment. Her career has been spent creating and building complex hardware systems for the aerospace and defense industry, her … More »

Print your thoughts! If a 3D printer were in a forest, would it still produce great hardware?

April 29th, 2014 by Jennifer Herron

Additive manufacturing (3D printing) is game changing technology to not only manufacturing, but also to design. However, it must be backed by product definition methods that support this unique manufacturing method.

I hadn’t hear this term before — Design-Driven Manufacturing —

I have not decided if the term is catchy enough to evoke the correct concept, but it does describe a concept that I have been discussing for years, which is that the advent of 3D printing prototyping (and now the capability to directly manufacture products) has allowed us, designers, to print our thoughts.

Additive Manufacturing (AM) is another downstream manufacturing technique that requires Model-Based Definition (MBD). MBD standards (ASME 14.41 and MS-31000A) are the first documents that begin to formalize complex three-dimensional data sets so that we, engineers, are able to engage our creative sides in solving complex problems, rather than messing with the digital data set. Lifting the limitations of two-dimensional (2D) documentation and manufacturing methods, and eliminating the need to design for tool path singularities, changes hardware solutions incredibly.

This article has a wealth of resources concerning Additive Manufacturing.,AerospaceIndustries.aspx

Here are a few of my favorite examples of innovations that make a difference to humanity and prove that restricting designers to 2D stunts their creativity.

1) Hands

Although, I build spacecraft and robots, I have never forgotten my desire to build prosthetics. When I was a senior Mechanical Engineering student, I lived in St. Louis. I researched a prosthetic device company, and visited. Knowing what I know today about mechanical systems and design, I should have been appalled at what I saw. Yes… hooks, and static hands. Needless to say, I was thrilled to see this article of a young boy with a new hand able to hold a ball, made from 3D printed parts.


2) Cranium

Need a new skull? Sure, let’s make you one. Best prediction to reality Star Trek ever made. It’s a replicator…


3) Sculpture

Joshua Harker, a sculptor, uses 3D printing technology to create what’s in his head. I found it interesting that to overcome CAD interoperability and get these visions from his head to the 3D printer machine, he requires 3 different modeling tools. Which Harker says “It’s a real pain in the ass”, but he used to use 12 different tools, so it is better than it once was. (Product Design & Development, April 2014, 69th Year, Issue 3).

Movie Link:

3D Viewer:,AerospaceIndustries.aspx


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