3-D printing has become a buzz-word of sorts, having been used to describe the process of making everything from medical appendages to supposed homemade weaponry. It’s different than traditional production because it relies on continually adding layers to things, instead of cutting a shape out of a material, and the material doesn’t really matter either, with anything from plastic to metal usable in the production. So while Michelangelo had to carve David out of marble, 3-D printers can now do the opposite, and provide more accurate sculptures in the process. That’s an oversimplification of the process, but it’s also the easiest way to understand the differences between 3-D printing and traditional manufacturing.
Troublingly, the public has probably heard more about 3-D printing through the gun debates on syndicated 24-hour news channels than they have in person, and if that continues to be the only information disseminated about the practice, then people are going to continue to miss out on the wonderful practicalities of the process.
FORGE, which is headquartered in downtown Jacksonville, is looking to change that perception by offering a 3-D printing studio to local residents that can produce anything they like, within reason.
Bryce Pfanenstiel and Adam Dukes were both working in different fields before they decided to turn to 3-D printing. Pfanenstiel was a commissioner at the Performing Arts Academy, an arts school for children off of Beach Boulevard, and Dukes was writing software and managing a team that was decoding the genome in St. Louis. Not necessarily the pair you’d think would decide to drop all of that and start a new company, but nonetheless, it happened. When they decided to change careers and capitalize on the opportunities provided by the recent One Spark crowd-funding festival here in Jacksonville, FORGE was able to officially open its doors in April. And coming from backgrounds that had little in common with 3-D printing made the early days of FORGE challenging, even for partners coming in from other fields that likely had their own unique stressors.
“None of us were really into 3-D modeling, and I think that’s what kind of slowed us down in the beginning. But both of us kind of supported each other in our frustration, and just kept hammering it home,” said Pfanenstiel.
They persisted and now they have the office running smoothly, and what Pfanenstiel and Dukes are so excited about is giving the power of creation back to the consumer. Instead of having people continually rely on corporate manufacturers, people in Jacksonville can now take whatever they dream up to FORGE and have it made in a relatively short period of time. That’s the mission statement behind the company, and that’s what makes it a unique experiment in the area.
“I can design it on a computer, and then press print [for the customer]. So it opens up the world to new ideas, and to me, that’s what innovation is. It’s empowering people with that tool,” said Pfanenstiel.
It’s also not lost on Pfanenstiel that an extra sense of individuality and sentimentality is inherent in every single thing that FORGE ends up producing. It relies on our basic need to feel like we make things ourselves, even if Pfanenstiel and Dukes are the ones doing the actual production.
“It rewards creation. Like ‘hey, it’s Valentine’s Day, but here’s this thing I made for you versus something I just went out and bought,’” said Pfanenstiel.
FORGE is located at 109 E. Bay St., so the next time you get the creative urge, take your ideas to them instead of letting them evaporate.