3D printing was once only seen as a technology reserved only for professionals. It was difficult and expensive to obtain a system before desktop 3D printers began proliferating at the start of the last decade. However, today, 3D printing is booming, and while we know that it is being used by nearly every major manufacturer in the world at some level, it is also extremely popular on TikTok.
Though this may be the case, you might not know it just from seeing articles on LinkedIn. Nevertheless, these users may be making just as much of an impact in the 3D printing industry, with TikTok as their platform of choice.
As a 3D printing TikToker myself, I had the pleasure of interviewing my colleagues Sarah Hunt, Melissa Kaye, Kerrika Marshall, Breanna Wright, Britt, and Lewis Derogene. In my conversations with them outlined in this series, I was able to learn about their processes, their outcomes, and how we can attract more women to the world of 3D printing. Check out parts one, two, and three of this series.
While all of the TikTok users I spoke to had their own reasons for getting into tech, they were united by the shared experience of operating in a sector typically dominated by white cishet males. Those stories become that much more complex when identities of race, gender, and sexuality are considered. Each gave us their perspectives on how to get more young girls and women in 3D printing and modeling.
Sarah Hunt (@PinkLumenade) told 3DPrint.com:
“Working as a woman in tech for a long time, I’ve seen some stuff. The biggest issue I’ve seen is a funnel problem. In male-dominated spaces, women tend to get frustrated by the lack of community, support, and inclusion when they feel like they don’t belong. If we can create more spaces and communities for women to thrive and feel like they’re a part of a community, we grow the upper funnel of women wanting to become invested and, as a result, more who stay in technology.”
Kerrika Marshall (@Awkwdblkgirl) spoke to the cost of the technology as a selling point for inclusiveness:
“I think we could do so by speaking more about it. A lot of people don’t know how accessible 3D printers are now. People are always so shocked when I tell them my Ender was less than 200 dollars. Also, by starting more programs. Especially in inner-city schools, as I can see that they could benefit a lot from it.”
@awkwdblkgrl Lol my ender 3 is down in the dumps gonna sell that to put towards another 3v2 because…why not? Also don’t come for me because I only have 1.5 printers…for now… #printtok3d #MoveWithTommy #flexifactory #printersetup #printerbeginner ♬ original sound – 3DPrintFarming
Britt (@SithLord_Britt) highlighted the need to examine the larger context surrounding the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM):
“The most effective way of getting more young girls and women into 3D printing is to address the underlying issues of why women are underrepresented in STEM. Equal and easy access to quality education is a large part of getting more amazing minds into 3D modeling/printing/engineering. We need to ensure that little girls (and children of all genders) have a place of education where their creative minds can be exposed to all areas of STEM. And then give them the support they need to grow in whatever direction makes them happiest, whether 3D printing, biology, or mathematics.”
Melissa Kaye (Cookiecad) contributed: “We need to keep exposing women and girls to all the amazing things 3D printing has to offer. Coding classes in schools are really taking off, and it’s exciting to see!”
Breanna Wright (@RGBrea) extrapolated the experience of 3D printing beyond the gender paradigm, saying: “Normalizing that this isn’t for a few special people, but anyone with a heart to create. I think a big part of it is seeing that this is for you too. I shared that in my journey, I counted myself out from 3D printing when I first fell in love with the tech and waited seven years before finally getting my first printer. It was a TikTok video made by Frankly Built that gave me that nudge of confidence to start my 3D printing journey and buy a printer. I think that seeing yourself in others, shared interests, and exciting applications helps with that inner belief that this is a medium for you as well.”
Be sure to follow these trailblazing women on TikTok, along with yours truly (@Themetal3Dprinter) and 3DPrint.com for more updates on women revolutionizing the 3D printing TikTok scene.