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#ShapewaysRoadtrip Recap Part Three: Chicago’s Bustling 3D Printing Ecosystem

Last week I posted the first two parts in a four part series covering my 3D Printing road trip across America. After Las Vegas and Denver, I headed to Chicago for the biggest meetup of the trip to date. My final post on Cincinnati will come out tomorrow.

Four hours of sleep, 500 miles mapped out, and a full tank of gas in the minivan later, we hit the road running for The Second City.  I kept Neil, my Chicago liaison, abreast of my progress throughout the day, as I closed in on the immaculately composed 3D Printer Experience, ran by the fabulous Julie Steele and her team in Chicago. When I arrived 10 minutes before show time, he was just as in awe as I was. Him at my timing, and me at the incredible display of 3D printed art– many examples of which were printed by Shapeways!

The piece above is printed by Shapeways and designed by Sophie Kahn. I suspect the feeling of awe and inspiration upon encountering Shapeways products in the wild will never wane, and this meetup was full of goodies. Julie even had an SLS machine sintering (think lasers and magic) as I was speaking! It was a serendipitous overlap of great people and technology in the heart of the Midwest.

The crowd in Chicago was large (in volume) and in charge. They were educated, came with few inquiries, but had multiple plans of action. Rather than questioning me on stage as the other groups preferred, they approached me by the sidelines with their plans for the future. This was a savvy group of makers and entrepreneurs, hungry to be a part of the next big thing. Julie was a gracious host, and it was fun to do an event with someone rooted deep in the Shapeways family. If you’re ever in Chicago, you must stop by the 3D Printer Experience, it’s right on the river and it rocks.

A quick skim of the hotels in downtown Chi-town and Martini and I decided to continue pressing on to Indiana. Little did we know, driving there is like driving on a racetrack. I don’t know if it’s culturally systemic given it’s racing heritage or what, but even at midnight their Indy skills dusted the Minivan. It was impressive. We tucked in for the night and dreamt of the future… and Cincinnati, our next stop.

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