It’s become so big it actually has its own day. Yep, December 3rd is National 3-D Printing Day and General Electric wants to party. You might get excited about printing your own homemade action figures and/or innovative mug designs some day, but GE has been knee deep in 3-D technology for more than two decades. By 2020, the company says it will have made over 100,000 aviation parts from their factories alone. But since we’re not all rushing out to buy jet engines, this new “holiday” is a way for the brand to get the word out on the potential of 3-D manufacturing to the masses.
First up, the brand teamed with other 3-D printing leaders like 3D Systems, Autodesk, and Makerbot to enlist an eclectic mix of celebrities and brands to help design limited-edition 3-D printed holiday gifts that will be flogged for free on Twitter. That means you might be able to land a techie tchotchke from people like Red Sox pitcher Craig Breslow, What Not to Wear‘s Stacy London, 4chan founder Chris Poole, and brands like Spotify and the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Museum.
The company also worked with open engineering software firm GrabCAD to take its annual Santa sleigh design to a more collaborative level. It was presented to the GrabCAD community as a design contest, with the winning sleigh design turned into a 3-D printed ornament prize for the #3DPrintMyGift holiday campaign.
“This is the first time that GE has ever done something like this and we managed to channel two themes into the day,” says contest judge Juan Pablo Cilia, a GE manufacturing designer at the company’s Global Research R&D division. “The purpose is to get people thinking more about 3-D printing. For this contest, it was about creating an environment where we as judges had ongoing discussions with contestants about their spec ideas and sleigh design choices.”
The judges waded through about 60 entries to find the winning sleigh– “Santa’s New Hyper Sleigh.” Second place went to “Santa Modern Sleigh,” while a big “Red Elephant” nabbed third. According to Cilia, fourth-place “Santa’s Energy Sleigh” was an early frontrunner (see gallery above).
Tweet the tag #3Dprintmygift on December 3rd or check out the Tumblr to request a trinket for free. Each one can be customized and printed that day. If you miss out on the GE freebies, the designs of each item will be open and available for anyone to print from home after December 3rd.
At his day job Cilia works on design ideas across the brand’s spectrum of products in health care, jet engines, lighting, and energy like wind and solar. He sees this campaign as an effective tool to promote and raise awareness of what the company is up to. “GE is doing huge things to actually utilize 3-D printing technology in production of real products,” says Cilia. “Things like this sleigh contest, even though it sounds childish, is a way to get people to understand what 3-D printing is all about.”
Click through the gallery above to see the new sleigh designs.