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3d printing concept

Notes from the Road: TJ McCue is currently traveling the United States on an 8-month RV roadtrip to get the pulse of 3D printing, 3D scanning, and 3D design across America.

We’ve been on the road for about six weeks. We set out to get a pulse on all things 3D. A lofty goal, to be sure, and we are learning a lot. In a nutshell, we are getting a solid heartbeat.

From consumers to business owners, people find 3D (scanning, printing, design) fascinating, sometimes perplexing. When we start to talk about it they are always curious, engaged, and most are genuinely interested to learn more.

Of course, we are driving a large, bright blue bus. Well, that’s what everyone calls the 32’ Class A Motorhome (RV) from Jayco that we’re fortunate to drive around the USA. It makes it relatively easy to engage in conversation with just about anyone with a pulse.

tour bus

3D RV during a brief hotel stay. Good spot!

The biggest “aha” moment for me, being involved and around the 3D space for several years now, is learning that people don’t realize that the tools are readily available for them, for you, and for me. Free apps and low-cost software can turn you into, at least, a “reality computing” champ – someone who can scan or photograph an object or area and bring that file to a 3D printer or to life in a virtual reality game, for instance. So when we tell people that they can download 123D Catch for free, they get seriously interested in the roadtrip.

Most days, I have a simple Digital SLR (DSLR) Nikon camera with me. Alongside that is an iPhone 5S that allows me to easily share my photos into the social streams. Dominique Pouliquen, Director of Market Development for Reality Solutions, has told me that my photo scans will be as good as my camera, thus the DSLR is always with me. Again, you can use your iPhone or any smartphone to capture images that you later upload, but the quality of the camera influences the 3D file later. If you want to know more about reality computing, watch this interview with Dominique.

Let me share a conversation we had recently. We visited with the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum in Sturgis, South Dakota. I can tell you why this place is a success: Executive Director Christine Paige Diers is a curious, open-minded, and enthusiastic person who continually looks for ways to share the museum with others, online and offline. And she represents some of the people we’re meeting all across America.

Christine had heard about 3D printing and scanning, of course, but couldn’t completely wrap her head around how it works and what it could do for her and the museum. So when we called and offered to laser scan the museum, she quickly said yes. Once we finished the laser scanning with the Faro Focus, we spent some time chatting with Christine to get her perspective. Within minutes of explaining how the scanning process worked and what you could do with a 3D model, you could see the “aha” moment for her. That cartoon light bulb appeared above her head.

We talked, of course, about how she could do some of this 3D model making herself with a DSLR or smartphone. We brainstormed about how you might scan, and then 3D print some of the more popular vintage motorcycles, in a small collectible size, perhaps for a fundraiser. Short video of our laser scan visit to Sturgis to come shortly.

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About TJ McCue

TJ McCue owns Refine Digital, a marketing lab focused on 3D technologies, and is currently traveling the United States on an 8-month RV roadtrip to get the pulse of 3D printing, 3D scanning, and 3D design across America. Follow him at or via Twitter @TJMcCue.

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