The 3D printing industry is in a state of constant flux and development. With the market set to expand by 17.5% over the next seven years, the career opportunities for both men and women are broad and far reaching. However, for years the tech field at large has been mostly dominated by men. Indeed, with only 13% of the 3D printing workforce being female, it’s clear we still have some way to go. But, we are getting there.
Times are changing and there are lots of women making colossal strides within the 3D printing industry right now. From designers and engineers, to scientists, professors and CEOs, women are not only shaping the future of additive manufacturing technology and its applications, they are paving the way for aspiring women everywhere and contributing to a professional sphere that is marked by both male and female innovation.
Here are just some of the pioneering women making their mark on the industry.
MIT professor, designer, architect, artist – I could go on. Neri Oxman wears many hats and she has received countless awards and much deserved recognition for her contribution to the world of design and technology. Israeli born Oxman has been using 3D printing technology to support a new architectural philosophy grounded in nature and material ecology.
At the 2016 World Economic Forum in Switzerland, she predicted that 3D printing would play a pivotal role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. She claims it has the power to embrace humanity and ecological creation as opposed to exploitation and profit. Many of her artistic experiments push the boundaries of 3D printing.
Iris van Herpen is a Dutch designer and trailblazer of 3D fashion printing. She was the first to ever send a 3D printed fashion piece down the runway back in 2010. Since the debut of that first piece, “Crystallization,” van Herpen has continued to make her mark in the world of 3D printing.
Never afraid to push boundaries, in 2013 van Herpen worked with photographer Nick Knight. He captured images of the way water moved when splashed on the naked body, and she turned those images into garments. Van Herpen also produced a dress as part of her Ludi Naturae collection which was fabricated using thermosetting polymers extruded by a 3D printer.
Van Herpen has exhibited her pieces in Amsterdam, London and Paris, and continues to come up with new and innovative ways to use 3D printing in her work.
After contributing to making Stratasys the biggest company in the world of 3D printing, as VP of Marketing, Arita recently moved up to her new role in leading Stratasys’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program.
Today, Arita leads the company’s CSR activities, dedicated to harnessing Stratasys’ unique technological advantages to help society. From educational empowerment programs, designed to introduce children from diverse backgrounds to new, advanced and innovative ways of thinking, to healthcare programs centered on advancing pre-surgical planning and prosthetics for children, Arita is behind it all.
Trained neuroradiologist Jenny Chen is the founder/CEO of 3DHEALS, a company which focuses on building collaborations in Healthcare 3D Printing and bioprinting through events, educational programs, and online media. She also has a special interest: artificial intelligence (AI).
Chen told Women in 3D printing: “I think the most important thing to remember is that 3D Printing is a brand-new tool for humanity, powered by our increasing computing power. 3D Printing will enable us to create solutions that were not possible before, and the market for that still-to-be-invented technology is unknown but conceivably infinite.”
Caroline Walerud made it onto the coveted Forbes 30 Under 30 list for her trailblazing work developing 3D foot scanners. She is the co-founder of Stockholm startup company Volumental, which uses 3D scanning to find the perfect fit for shoe shoppers.
Volumental's hardware includes a platform that resembles a high-tech scale. All a shoe shopper has to do is stand on the device, and depth cameras take a 3D, volumetric scan of each foot. The company's software captures data points including arch length and ball width that a shoe retailer would normally find difficult to measure.
Fancy Joining the Pioneer Women of the 3D Printing Industry?
CEO at Heisel, Sylvia Heisel said: “Go for it and find your niche. Additive manufacturing is a very broad field and you need to find your place within it. There are great opportunities in hardware, software, materials and product design as well as applications for specific industries. Focus on 3D printing for a single industry, or a single aspect of the printing process.”
Similarly, Application Development Consultant at EOS Monica Smith echoed her enthusiasm, by stating: “Get involved! If you are still studying, start a 3D printing club. Attend conferences; visit the booths at trade shows. Find someone whose career you admire and reach out to them. Ask them questions about their job and their company. There are many different ways to get involved in the industry and with the rapid expansion, plenty of job openings across different areas of the business.”
Julie Reece, VP of marketing for 3D printing company Rize, believes women should have faith in their abilities when it comes to the additive manufacturing world. “If you know your subject matter, speak with confidence. If you don't know, ask questions. Don't wait for opportunity; make things happen. You can’t be afraid to do so or to self-advocate and set boundaries. Above all, maintain a great sense of humour.”
Finally, I’ll leave you some advice from CEO at byFlow, Nina Hoff ,who wisely said: “Don’t try to be like men – it’s not a solution! Take all the advantages we have as women and show everyone how valuable they can be in the world of technology.”