How 3D printing is accelerating my career

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3D printing is a new revolution and being involved in it is revolutionizing my career. I work for Hewlett-Packard (soon I’ll be working for HP Inc.) and my work in robotics involves a lot of 3D printing. I currently work with the Uprints that are housed in the Model Shop amongst several other 3D printers at the HP Boise site. Most engineers on this HP site have access to these printers and that includes the engineering interns as well.

Before coming to HP I had heard of 3D printers, seen them in action, and even had some simple works printed off a maker bot. I also used Google’s Made with Code website to print off a 3D braclet that I designed online and they shipped to me for free. This was all very non technical but gave me some exposure. It helped me start thinking about what we couldn’t make in a machine shop versus what we could make with a 3D printer.

When I started on this robotics project I was told from the beginning that we would be using the 3D printer. 3D printing on the Uprint allows for inexpensive but well made parts to be created. Where 3D printing comes in really handy is the quick iteration process. I can go into my 3D modeling program and design the parts I need to print and once the parts are printed I take them out of the printer, assemble them, see what went wrong and start the whole process over again. Depending on how complicated the part is I can design and print a few times every day.

An example of a robot finger with wire to  allow the servo to operate it
An example of a 3D printed robot finger with wire to allow the servo to operate it

The work I am doing in robotics here at HP as a young engineering student is giving me real industry experience. I keep a diary with basic notes of the different milestones I hit, and the people I meet, and the things I do. From it I can see that there has been great progress in the development and ideas behind this robotics project. I have spoken with a CTO at HP and people from that office who have visions of their own, I have had positive conversations with my managers and my mentor on the progress of the project, and I have collaborated with other interns that helped the project move along even better with their expertise. Here I am not just an intern, I am working with other engineers on a project that could have big implications on how printer testing is done at HP. And I also have the great opportunity to contribute to the robotics research and development work being done worldwide. I have the popularity of robotics and the resources and influence of a Fortune 500 company on my side for the success of this project and my future projects in robotics.

A full 3D printed example of a robot hand design.
A full 3D printed example of a robot hand design.

Because 3D printers allow me to accelerate the process of design and re-design I don’t have to wait to turn paper drawings into live demos. I can continue to improve and say, “This is what we could do yesterday, and this is what we can do today.” In the current climate at HP, with this kind of rapid forward movement, and with excited and motivated managers, robot development at HP is going to take off and me with it.

Written by:

Cami is about to start her senior year in Mechanical Engineering at Boise State University. She currently holds a Machine Learning internship at HP and is looking to break into industry with Robotics and Artificial Intelligence. After starting with the NASA Aerospace High School Scholars she has also participated in other NASA programs such as Microgravity University Undergraduate Research. She is also a committed and active volunteer for other STEM and Diversity groups and organizations. Stay tuned to see what she does next!

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