Vinnie Zoutenbier has been a Boston Makers volunteer since February 2017. In this interview, read how he first started making, and why he’s passionate about teaching others at the Boston Makers workspace.
What first got you interested in making, and why?
I had been following Instructables for a few years, but wasn’t actually making anything until my 4th year of grad school. I was talking to a career councilor at my university, and we found the Disney Research lab in Boston. Disney was doing 3D printing research and seeing how it could be used within their company. After spending a few days obsessively reading into their work, I fell in love with the lab. I knew I would be moving to Boston in about a year, so to introduce myself as a serious applicant I learned Blender (3D modeling software) and started learning about to 3D printing at my school. Unfortunately, the Boston lab closed before I graduated, but I’m trying to stay in that same creative side of science and engineering.
Why did you join Boston Makers?
When I first joined, I needed an escape from applying to jobs. I needed a creative outlet. My girlfriend suggested I volunteer at Boston Makers after she used a sewing machine there last summer. Volunteering at the makerspace lets me use my scientific skills from grad school to create tangible, useful objects that can open up discussions in materials science, electrical engineering, and optics.
What do you hope to learn as a volunteer?
I hope to learn about our tools to help makers use them more effectively. For example, I’ve created calibration samples for our laser cutter—basically small examples of what the cutter does to 1/4 inch plywood using different settings . These help people visualize what’s possible with the tool, how to reduce waste, and how to minimize the amount of time the laser itself is on, so the machine lasts longer and more people can use it. Ultimately, though, I want to help other makers understand the science of what goes into digital fabrication, change the way I think about tool limitations, and to create a portfolio I can use to apply to places to work.
What are you most excited about working on right now?
Alex (another Boston Makers volunteer) and I are building a new extrusion-style 3D printer for the makerspace right now. It’s great to see how 3D printers are put together from scratch. It can be daunting to think about putting a homemade one together, but it’s much easier than it looks. It’s really just assembling the hardware with motors and a few heaters, and then connecting them to a computer.
If you could pick any project, what would you love to make in the future?
I’ve been thinking about how I can use our tools to create optical-quality thin fresnel lenses. Fresnel lenses are used to make magnifying glasses that are only about 3mm thick, like those business-card-sized magnifiers. This project uses my lab experience, optics background, and maker-mindset. I would love access to a CNC router or a 5-axis machining CNC to make molds for the lenses, but that’s thinking about design using tools I don’t have. I’m trying to develop a mindset of using the tools we have available: a good laser cutter and a variety of 3D printers.
Want to see what Vinnie’s making right now? Check out his website: