Maker Spotlight: MATT WILSON Interviewed by Stephanie Valle

Nothing is ever final, it can always be improved. It’s true for writing, and for 3D designs. You stop improving when the benefit is deemed to be not worth the effort and cost.”

— M. Wilson

Stephanie: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into 3D printing?

Matt: I’m retired. I've always had a hobby of electronics. I like fixing things. I’ve always liked making things work-- preferably making them work better than ever. If I can’t fix it, then I disassemble it for any useful parts. I got into 3D printing by playing with arduinos. I got my own 3D printer kit after I had spent a couple of years attempting to build one from scrap stuff (I'll finish it one day, maybe). 

Stephanie: What do you generally make with your 3D printer?

Matt: I make replacement parts, generally made with improvements, to fix things. Usually the original part broke because it has a design deficiency. Sometimes I draw from existing designs, however, this often tests the limits of what my printer, and the printers at Makers Place, can do. For example, I printed a complete replacement extruder for my printer using a design from Thingiverse; it worked, but it took a couple of iterations to get the printer settings good enough.

I also make new designs. Some are new tools, such as a shredder for scrap plastic, as part of recycling waste (still a work-in-progress). Some others are things I'll call trinkets, such as name snowflakes for Christmas gifts.

Stephanie: What do you like most about the technology? 

Matt: I enjoy 'solving the puzzle'; how can I make what is needed? A 3D printer gives me that opportunity. For example, over Christmas, my mother-in-law mentioned she had a music box with a Santa in a rocking sleigh, but it didn't work any more. She said she'd lost the key, so I offered to have a look to see if it was repairable.

The music box was one of the wind-up type, with a wooden stick in a slot to start and stop it. I pulled out the wooden stick and it chimed out about 4 or 5 notes before it stopped. Where the key to wind it up should be was just a threaded shaft sticking out. It seemed to be OK, except for the key.

So, one morning a day or so later, I typed in a simple script into OpenSCAD to create a new key. A couple of clicks later, I had an STL file. It only took a few minutes to create the GCODE file ready to print in my printer. I printed the key. It took longer to heat up and change the filament than it took to print! It screwed straight on. After winding up the music box, it worked perfectly.

My mother-in-law was very pleased with my morning's effort. Even her arthritis-affected fingers could wind up the music box. The music box was on display for this Christmas, and is now stored away until next.

Stephanie: What do 3D printers signify to you?

Matt: To me, 3D printers are a tool, rather than an end in themselves. A 3D printer is a very versatile tool, but the lower end machines can be very frustrating to use; lots of trials and many errors. However, even the very low-end 3D printing machines can produce some very useful and interesting items.

Stephanie: How does Makers Place fit in with your interests?

Matt: Doing something for others is a key component of being part of a community. This is common feature shared by 3D printing, and Makers Place. If what I do has value for others, then that is a win-win for all concerned. Its about solving a problem, servicing a need. I get supply for doing something I enjoy, and others gain value from what I produce, and hopefully, they enjoy that too.