Meet Allie Katz: 3D printing expert

Allie is a YouTuber and creative technologist who does a lot of 3D print designing and… printing. They’re a pro at turning an idea into a real thing, and they also work with ceramics and wearables! Check out katzcreates.com.

allie katz and beemo

Q: How did you start with 3D printing? 

A: A friend and a generous gift for the most part! A friend of mine showed me his 3D printer, lighting a bit of a flame in me to want to try it myself and resulting in it becoming the top thing I wanted to get for myself. Amazingly, I received my first 3D printer as a birthday gift, and as they say, the rest is history!

Q: What are some of your favourite prints you’ve done? 

A: I’ve got a pretty deep love for Big Buff Pikachu designed by Chan Yen Yee; that was one of my early prints. It’s just so silly and beautiful and fun. Beyond that, I get kind of boring rather quickly as I think most of my favourite prints are practical things I’ve designed for myself to make my life easier, like my DIY Teleprompter.

Allie Katz's DIY teleprompter

Q: What do you think is an important thing for makers to consider?

A: I think an often overlooked consideration when it comes to 3D printing is to know your printer. Not everyone’s printer can do the same thing, and I don’t just mean in terms of size limitations! Knowing what your printer is capable of, where its strengths and weaknesses are, will save you a lot of time and wasted plastic later when it comes to printing things. Building out custom printing profiles that work with these strengths and weaknesses as well will save you a lot of time later!

Q: Are there any ways to practise designing and/or printing?

A: Start small and work your way up to bigger and more complex things. Test and calibration prints are a great way to get to know your printer’s capabilities and limitations, but if you find that uninteresting and want to be designing and printing your own things, then try tackling one difficult thing at a time, instead of trying to throw it into a single design. I also recommend reading up on the basics/theory of 3D printing before diving in too far, particularly since there are some amazing, very easy-to-digest primers out there. I highly recommend Billie Ruben’s guides.

Steps to make

01. Planning out a 3D print

“Think about what you want/need and ask yourself the question: is 3D printing best for this? If you need something that is small, very detailed, or requires certain properties that will be well served being plastic, then 3D printing is likely the best solution! It’s important to recognise though that not everything is best 3D-printed, and having a good understanding where 3D printing is ideal is incredibly useful!”

02. Designing a 3D print

“Always keep your printer’s tolerances in mind while designing pieces that need to fit together (or into something else)! There will always be a small amount of space ‘lost’ when 3D printing because of nozzle inaccuracies and thermal expansion of the plastic, and if you don’t create gaps between your pieces in the design software, there’s a very good chance that the physical pieces won’t fit together when printed. As mentioned before, all printers are different, and it’s key to know what your printer is capable of!”

03. Printing

“If designing anything with parts that fit together or has specific size requirements, print prototypes that test one particular aspect before printing the whole piece at full quality! Printing only a certain part of a piece if you’re testing the fit, or a piece with infill only (no top or bottom layers) to check on sizing, are great examples of how you can print faster and less material-dense prototypes before jumping into the final piece.” 

Allie Katz building BMO

Allie’s projects

Clean air necklace
3D printing, electronics, sensors, wearables

Make sure the air you’re breathing above your neck is good, and also make it fashion.

BMOctoprint
3D printing, web services, programming, PCB design

This cute robot from Adventure Time helps keep Allie’s 3D printer running.

3D-printed LED name badges
3D printing, electronics, sensors, wearables

After a lengthy hospital stay, Allie made these badges to thank their nurses.

nhs nurse badges by Allie Katz

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