Early 3D Adopters: Who's Doing 3D Printing?
Gardner had been told that the company's biggest risk was to do nothing, so he did something. He birthed the idea of the Hudson Print Lab—an area of the company that would be full of cool print gear. "A 3D printer was one of the first things we imagined going in there," he adds. "I wanted something to build cool projects that would put a smile on someone's face without landing us in jail."
Gardner took his $5,000 budget and authorized one of the company's interns to research the options and make the purchase. "We saw it as a way to get our feet wet and begin to understand the technology," explains Gardner. "There are people out there who understand 3D printing deep and wide, but they aren't in the printing realm."
The goal was to find a device that would sit out in the front lobby, draw attention and create conversations with customers. "We wanted something that had a finished enclosure and looked nice—something that would be safe so families could bring their kids in to see it running without any risk of them getting hurt," he says.
In the summer of 2013, the company purchased a CubeX Duo, a two-color machine that offers a resolution of 125 microns and a build area of 10x10˝. The Duo uses extrusion technology, which Gardner felt was safe and offered the least learning curve.
Responsibility for running the machine is spread around the staff. Hudson's HP operator, lead IT staffer and "mail guru" keep the device printing so the company can keep learning. The team primarily prints open source designs, but they have also experimented with 3D modeling software like CubeX, Sketchup and Blender. Projects have included a pirate ship and dinosaur and rhinoceros heads, as well as a glow-in-the-dark globe with raised continents. Some projects take 20 to 40 hours to print.