Dan Meyer manages the Fab Lab at the Museum of Science and Industry. He is a manufacturing technologist with a degree in manufacturing technology from Illinois Institute of technology, which is now called Illinois Tech. e started in 1991 working in his family’s Foundry on the South side of Chicago, which was started by his great, great grandfather.
After an hour of talking to Dan Meyer from the makeshift lab he set up on the first floor of his high-rise apartment building, I realized that this crisis had released everything that was pent up in Dan. All the energy, emotion and exasperation of many years brought him to this moment and he found himself alone in a room with 20 printers, utilizing all he had learned and acting on everything he believed. COVID-19 had him burning hot. For a self-described hacker and scifi fan, the future had arrived.
He got to this point after two weeks of negotiation with his employer to haul 3D printers out of the dark place that was his Fab Lab. He began printing face shields, improving the prints and then came up with the Chicago Shield that could be printed on small 3D printer and then baked to be expanded to a larger size. He posted his design to Thingiverse. He figured out how to print Chicago Shields in a stack so the printers could run continuously for 9-hours at a time. He began delivering his prints to Jackie Moore on the South Side.
Every collaborative effort depends on the willingness of individuals to take action — not to talk about it or wait for others to set it up for them but to just do something, do anything, and do everything you can. Without it, nothing really happens. While many others were binge-watching Netflix, Dan was binge-making, all along figuring out how to make things better. Dan is an exemplar Maker. He’s created a mold out of which other makers could be made.
It’s best if you hear directly from Dan himself and feel his enthusiasm, burning very hot.
“I like making things,” Dan told me. “I like optimizing and computerizing and CAD and all of that. It just runs through my whole life.” The combination of rapid prototyping and design for manufacturing is extremely powerful, he said, which he traces back to Neil Gershenfeld and the Fab Lab Network out of MIT.
“You look at the world,” he said. “And you think, how can the objects, the people, the institutions, and the computers around me be used to help?”
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