Blog: From art to print: finding my feet as a technician

By 13th March 2020 March 27th, 2020 Blog
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Jessica Robinson, Technician at PrintCity, Manchester Metropolitan University

My name is Jess and I work for Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) as a Technician within PrintCity, a 3D printing facility. My job role involves working with various 3D printers – setting up and removing prints, machine maintenance and assisting students and visitors.

Before working at PrintCity, I was a fine art graduate and felt a little bit lost. I spent most of my time working in retail, volunteering at The Turnpike gallery in Leigh when I could to keep a foot in the door in the art world. I soon began to realise that maybe the career path I dreamed of was not for me, and then the opportunity came up to be a technician at MMU.

“I began to think about how important the technicians were when I was at university, and how much of a vital role they played in making hands-on skills accessible to students. This encouraged me to apply, as I wanted to have a role that educated others and myself at the same time.”

Since starting a few weeks ago, I have mainly been focusing on the Ultimaker 3 and S5 machines, which use Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) technology. I have learnt everything from loading and unloading material and print cores, to troubleshooting machines and sorting out print core blockages. Through better understanding these machines, it makes it easier to support students with their work and experiment with materials and settings that are not commonly used.

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Not only am I required to understand the inner workings of the machines but also the software that comes with them. Before you can print, you have to come up with a design and put it through a slicing software. Through my role, I have been lucky enough to have workshops in both of these areas. We are encouraged to play around with Fusion 360 (the CAD software) and create our own designs to print; this also helps us to better understand the full print process.

Finally, one of reasons I like working at PrintCity is the encouragement you get from the staff about starting up self-directed projects. I am excited at the possibility of making work again, especially in a process that I have never had the opportunity to work with before. It makes me enthusiastic about my future as a creative, a technician and member of the PrintCity team.