Ann Arbor’s Local 3D ThingSmiths

Owen Tien, of the Michigan-based ThingSmiths, seems to be with me on the return to localization. Running his 3D printing service bureau, Tien takes advantage of the business made possible online, but he also emphasizes the local relationships that can be made in offering residents of Ann Arbour a place to manufacture prototypes and goods. He tells his local paper, Midland Daily News:

My great-grandfather was a blacksmith and, in his time, if you needed something made or fixed it wasn’t ordered through Amazon and then plugged in. You walked down the street, had a conversation about what you needed and your expectations, and they pounded it out for you. I don’t believe that 3D printing is going to create the complex electronic devices we use now anytime soon, but the technology is going to take us to a place where we can order an object online and have it created locally. It is part of a modern return to the age of localized manufacturing. As our machines make all sorts of things, and we don’t need to get covered in soot creating, the idea of a “thing” smith seemed appropriate.

With dual degrees in philosophy and management from Grand Valley State University, Tien saw the power of opening a 3DP service bureau. His philosophy degree has made him able to see the big picture, while his management degree allows him to examine the finer, more immediate details. The combined insight, led him to conclude “that most [3D printing] services were complex, expensive and had long turn-around times. I also found the machines to be expensive, relatively incapable, and time consuming (both in learning to use and in maintenance time). Having found this, It seemed to me that while many people will have printers in their house one day, the true potential of this tech will be unlocked in affordable local access to these machines through service bureaus.

ThingSmiths 3D printers

And that’s what ThingSmiths intends to do: put the power of 3D printing into the hands of people now, without expecting them to deal with the sometimes finicky nature of desktop 3D printing.  The company offers 3D printing services using a variety of desktop machines, including a Replicator 2x, a LeapFrog machine, and a Form1. If you don’t have something to print on their machines, they’ll help you create it with 3D scanning services that run at about $10/scan or consultation and design services, wherein ThingSmiths will aid you in developing your product from idea to prototype.

Owen Tien and his team are part of a growing need for consumers to know, personally, who they’re working with. Rather than deal with a potentially disgruntled employee of a big box store, ThingSmiths are your local – for lack of a better word – thingsmiths, where customer service and good personal relationships are necessary to the business’s success. Tien embodies this philosophy, saying, “I really enjoy being able to craft the customer experience from initial impression (either through a Google Adword click or Facebook post or customer recommendation), to the process of collaborating on a project, right up through handing the person an object that was previously only seen on napkins and computer screens. It’s difficult to get it right, and we’re definitely working out the kinks, but so far I think we’ve been making a good impact and impression.

Source: Midland Daily News

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