The following is a rough transcript between Harnek (CEO of MakerFleet) and Norma Heller (Costume Designer and Cosplayer at Hellanorma.com). Our post-interview notes are in italics.
Harnek: What made you go on the platform?
Norma: Well first it was because I wanted to get started with 3D Printing, but never got around to putting in the time to getting my own 3D Printer. Then I printed out my first thing and was slightly disappointed because of how much support material was being used for my first model (A statue).
Then I wanted to 3D Print some things for a cosplay. That’s when I really started using the platform.
Harnek: What issues did you have?
Norma: I’m really good at breaking things, so I broke the system a lot. And it took a really long time to place the models where I wanted to, and then when I saved it, it broke and didn’t tell me why it failed. (We love Norma because she constantly found bugs no one else was finding. If you’re now liking the software we wrote, it’s because she found most of the bugs.)
Most of the things I printed out were fine, but one piece was weird. It was using a lot of supports and so I didn’t know who to blame, whether it was the model or your printers. I got the model from the internet, so it was probably the model, but I wish there was a way to see how the model would be printed out or how things would look after I printed them, you know? (We realized we needed a way for people to see exactly what was printing out, with more accuracy than the stream. We wrote a G-Code Viewer that allows people to see how the Gcode will actually be used. It’s fine for an MVP, but we could see that people who just started with 3D Printing didn’t click the button.)
Harnek: You printed out all of your cosplay pieces for around $26. Was that worth it?
Norma: Oh yeah, definitely. That one piece that didn’t work is an issue for me, but if you didn’t add that into the price, then totally fine.
Post Interview Takeaways
The fine line between “This is a bad file” and “We made this wrong” was a part of our model we were worried about. How do we explain to people that it isn’t always our fault but rather the models that they found online? Later on, we could add more software that tested if the part could be 3D Printed well. Experienced users who had taken a 3D Printing class would understand the difference, but we would definitely suffer if we couldn’t provide our users feedback.
Norma continued to print other things and got much better at the printing process. Norma was a sample of a larger audience of people that wanted to build things and were invested in the process of creative making, but were hoping that 3D Printed objects came out cleaner. She was much more invested in understanding how things got 3D Printed and how to improve the prints, but was easily overwhelmed by all the different options. We figured that we would need a way to interact with the user, so we littered the page with tooltips, a beginner’s guide, and a chatbox.
We realized that the initial hurdle in 3D Printing was understanding all the problems with it. If we stripped the problems immediately, users would think that every model was a plug and play easy print, which was just wrong. So we decided to send customers their first print as it was printed. We wouldn’t remove support material the first time around, but we would give them tools to remove the support and explain to them the process.