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An Interview with Mara Hitner, MatterHackers
June 19, 2015
As we have learned more and more about 3D printing and STEM education, one of the topics that has come up with some people we've talked with is the inclusion of women and youn girls and this new technology. In the first segment of our series on the use of 3D printing for women and girls, we caught up with Mara Hitner, Director of Business Development at MatterHackers. Their organization has worked diligently to bring the technology of 3D printing into the lives of children through with schools, libraries, and various youth organizations. The interview was conducted via email and the transcript is below.
1) How and when did you get into 3D printing?
2) What types of barriers, if any, did you experience getting into the industry?
3) What kinds of outreach does MatterHackers develop or participate in? Is any of it specifically directed at young girls?
We can educate them so they know they can print a modification to be more efficient, or to suit a particular physical limitation they are dealing with. Why just adapt, when you can print! I personally have been a member of Step Up Women's Network for over 10 years (mentoring underserved girls in LA), and may be working with them to deliver a program on 3D Printing.
4) Without giving away any trade secrets, can you discuss how your software, OS, and Touch controller work? Are they compatible with almost any 3D printer?
5) What do you think schools and universities can do to better (if anything) to foster STEM efforts related to 3D printing? What do you think are the biggest barriers to a novice getting involved with the field and the technology?
Perhaps someday it will get there, but right now there can be a definite learning curve in assembling and maintaining the printer, choosing the right materials, model building and design, and knowledge of the printing software. I also have a lot of sympathy for the procurement professionals at these schools, because 3D Printing is a very complicated space. Hundreds of manufacturers of printers and materials at varying prices and quality with very little information available makes for an intimidating process.
MatterHackers has actually become a bit of a respite for schools and universities looking for a more consultative approach. While we don't make printers and have no affiliation with any particular manufacturer or brand, we sell 42 different printers and 350+ kinds of materials. So when a school gets in touch with us, we can help guide them to the best setup for their unique needs and budget. It's a nice place to sit because we can help people along their 3D Printing journey, from choosing their first machine, to advanced specialty material, and even our MatterControl software, which has three settings from simple to advanced, so it grows with the user as they become more experienced.
About Matter Hackers
MatterHackers leads the 3D printing industry in printer control. Since 2012, MatterControl software has been the software of choice for users of 20+ printer manufacturers (Lulzbot, Airwolf, Printrbot, Solidoodle, etc.) and manufacturers have included their profile pre-sets for multiple models. MatterControl is able to follow industry trends by simultaneously serving the advanced needs of additive manufacturing professionals (aerospace, automotive prototyping, engineering, etc.) with a robust and evolving feature set, while also adjusting for the "newbie" 3D printer enthusiasts (education, families, makers, etc.) with simple, plug-and-print settings and functionality.
MatterControl is an open-source software, developed by CEO Lars Brubacker and COO Kevin Pope. Lars worked for many years in the video games industry where, as the founding CEO of game studio Reflexive Entertainment, he helped to pioneer the web-based digital distribution of video games. Kevin Pope was the controller at Reflexive Entertainment, which was purchased by Amazon.com in 2008.
Based on their mutual passion for 3D printing and the Rep-Rap community, Lars and Kevin started MatterHackers to develop a much-needed 3D printing software platform. MatterHackers.com also become the first consistent supplier of a variety of different 3D printers, 3D printing materials, and knowledge. MatterHackers.com remains one of the largest retailers for filament and hardware in the industry.
MatterHackers also know their users no longer want to have their printers tethered to their computers and laptops while printing. In January 2015, they released the MatterControl Touch; the first WiFi enabled touch screen tablet device with onboard camera that runs MatterControl software, and communicates your designs and models to your printer. It's completely standalone, slices and prints with most g-code based printers (.x3g coming soon), and is constantly being updated with the latest manufacturer settings and creative apps to make 3D printing easier and more accurate. Manufacturers like SeeMeCNC and Robo are currently selling MatterControl Touch controller with their printers on Amazon.com.