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November 20, 2014 AT 1:45 pm

3D Community Spotlight: Emmett Lalish, 3D Artist and Engineer #3DThursday #3DPrinting

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This week’s Community Spotlight features aerospace engineer and 3D designer Emmett Lalish.

If you follow the world of desktop 3D printing, then you have no doubt seen a few of his popular contributions to Thingiverse such as Screwless Heart Gears, Stretchy Bracelet, Automatic Transmission Model, Preassembled Secret Heart Box, Blossoming Lamp, and more. He has designed most of these using the open source code-based parametric design tool OpenSCAD (with some serious assistance with some MatLab precomputed geometry to, literally, round things out). And he has offered some of the handiest machine mods out there, from a Replicator-ready spring tensioner based on Whosa Whatsis’s design and finally solving the MakerBot Thing-O-Matic Automatic Build Platform a year after everyone else had given up on the product. 😉

It has been argued that — given how frequently his designs have been printed at Maker Faires, 3D trade shows, and tech demos — Emmett’s work has sold more desktop 3D printers (or at least sold audiences on the value of them) than any other designer in the world.

He is now a part of Microsoft’s new 3D printing group where he and his team advocate for deep OS integration of 3D scanning, design, and printing tools into the Windows ecosystem, among other activities. (And putting a great deal of efforts specifically into the 3D Builder app project.)

Here’s an update from him about his new role:

Currently I write geometric algorithms, guide the development of our home-grown slicer (you can try it if you plug&play a Printrbot Metal Simple on Windows 8.1), and design the UX for 3D Builder (our free get-started-with-3D-printing app), among other things.

I’m pretty excited about our latest 3D Builder release, since we just added 3D scanning with a Kinect v2! See our video here.

Emmett Lalish Interviewed by Matt Griffin

Hi! Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Emmett Lalish and I’m an aerospace engineer working on 3D printing at Microsoft. I designed mathematical sculptures as a hobby, which somehow lead to my doing computational geometry and UX design as a career.


Gear Bearing by emmett

What are your go-to machines? (Desktop printers, services, hand tools, etc!)

I’ve worked with a lot of 3D printers now. I started with Makerbots (I got one of the early Thing-O-Matics, which is now heavily modified), but my current favorite is my Printrbot Metal Simple.

Truly Automatic Thing O Matic by emmett Thingiverse

Truly Automatic Thing-O-Matic by emmett

And what software do you use to get your work done? (Design packages, CAM software, slicers, host software?)

Design is primarily OpenSCAD, with a little Matlab thrown in occasionally. My favorite slicer is, of course, the one I work on (shipped on plug&play printrbots). And for basic modification, 3D scanning, embossing and printing, I’m rather fond of 3D Builder (which I design the UX of).


Knotted Orbit by emmett (created using 3DBuilder)

What is one (or what are some) of your designs that you’d like for everyone to check out?

Well, I guess this is my chance to show off my less popular stuff. When someone asks if you can make anything useful with 3D printing, you can show them this: Moineau Soap Dispenser. If they ask how big something can be made, answer infinite and show them this: Gyroid Construction Set. And then my latest creation, my first foray into color textures: Knotted Orbit by emmett.

Moineau Soap Dispenser by emmett Thingiverse
Moineau Soap Dispenser by emmett

What are design challenges that you have faced (and perhaps or perhaps not overcome) when creating your work?

Most often they are slicer challenges, where I create something that a printer won’t build correctly, even though it should be capable. This is why I now work on a slicer.


Gyroid Construction Set by emmett

What challenge do you most look forward to tackling in the future?

Writing a fast, robust 3D Boolean algorithm, so I am no longer beholden to the horrors of floating point rounding error.

Automatic Transmission Model by emmett Thingiverse
Automatic Transmission Model by emmett

Any pointers for those just starting out with design and 3D printing?

Go play with all the free 3D design tools. They are all very different and mostly confusing, but keep in mind that everyone’s brains work differently. Keep looking and you’ll probably find one that clicks for you. It was OpenSCAD for me, but everyone I meet seems to have a different favorite.


Blossoming Lamp by emmett


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Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!

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