An inspiration for teachers: the 3D Printing Professor wins our Xmas design contest

Since 2012 when he got his first 3D printer, Joe Larson hasn’t looked back: he started his own YouTube channel making videos focused on designing for 3D printers and writes blog posts and books on 3D printing. His goal: inspire his audience to create pretty much anything you can think of. Read on to find out how the 3D Printing Professor gets his inspiration to make 3D modeling fun.

Tell us a few things about yourself and what you do.

My name is Joe Larson and I’m known on YouTube as the 3D Printing Professor. I do 3D modeling and make videos about 3D printing, among other things.

Joe has his own YouTube channel about 3D printing.

When and how did you get into 3D modeling?

I was actually into 3D modeling before I was into 3D printing. I studied to be a computer animator because I loved art and computers, but I never intended to enter the highly competitive computer animation field. So when I heard about 3D printing, I just transitioned the skills I had acquired.

Have you heard about VECTARY before the contest or was it your first VECTARY experience?

I heard about VECTARY just before the contest. I had actually just gotten off an experience with another online 3D modeling program that was not ready for prime time. Perhaps it was the frustration with that program that fed into my excitement for VECTARY. Even before the contest, I intended to share VECTARY on my YouTube channel.

We obviously loved your winning model, “Pocket Nativity”, how did you come to design it?

My grandfather had wood cut a design he found in a magazine. We had that growing up, and I’ve wanted to recreate it for 3D printing for years. I actually want to make it with more sculptural details, and maybe I will for Christmas next year. But for now just recreating it will have to do.

“Pocket Nativity” model made by the 3D Printing Professor, winner of the Xmas contest

Do you have a favorite feature in VECTARY?

The tutorial. I cannot get over how easy and seamless it was to go from setting up an account to “getting it” and to feeling proficient in VECTARY. It drops you right into the tutorial, and yet it didn’t feel forced or restrictive. It actually reminds me of the tutorial level in Megaman X, and that’s a very good thing.

How does your creative process usually look like?

Obsession. I get an idea in my head and it refuses to budge until I work on it or write it down somewhere. The ideas I write down I tell myself I’ll get to one day, and I never do. The ideas I don’t, I usually end up scribbling a plan on a piece of paper, then opening up my 3D modeling software and starting work.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Life. Family. Conversations I have with other people. Believe it or not I’m rather introverted, so getting out and talking to people is draining, and yet that tends to be the best source of great new ideas.


What was the reason you decided to teach 3D?

I can’t explain it any way other than teaching is in my blood. I love sharing what I know with others and seeing them succeed is the greatest feeling.

Do you have a specific method of teaching 3D modeling?

I’ll often make an outline for what I want to teach, sometimes I’ll even write it down, then I just kind of riff off the outline. It’s not as clean as Tom Salander’s workflow, but it enables me to close the time between idea and execution.

Meet Joe aka the 3D Printing Professor!
3D printing professor’s working space

Have you noticed any change in your students’ attitude towards school and learning after using 3D modeling in class?

I wish I could say that I have. In my experience, it’s more like math than art. Some students get it, and those that do, excel. Other students continue to struggle and it never catches on with them. I’m constantly trying to broaden the projects I provide so that I can appeal to the widest group, which means I’ve got to be a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. It’s always a work in progress.

Do you have a word of advice for creators or fellow teachers who may be reluctant to start teaching 3D modeling?

I understand your hesitance. Especially if this doesn’t come easily to you. It’s okay. We’re still very much in the weeds here, blazing new trails. But I’m here to help. If you want something that will make it easier to you, let me know and I’ll do what I can to blaze those trails you need.

What are you planning to design and teach about next?

In my design, I’m actually starting to play with laser cutting. But for teaching, especially on YouTube, I plan on teaching a few videos on putting color data in 3D models, and then making a new formal curriculum and book about beginning 3D modeling using some basic tools. I’ll probably even make a few videos about VECTARY in the coming year.

You can follow Joe on YouTube, Twitter or Facebook to learn all about making high quality 3D printing projects. He is also giving away prints featured in his videos to his patrons on Patreon, so go ahead and check him out!