We talked to Brooklyn-based 3D Printing leader Christina Perla about the power of community, telling her own story, and enabling the creative process
Ever heard someone talk about diversity through a design lens? Or argue that it’s an organisational asset; a potential source of unlimited possibility?
Chatting with Christina Perla— the woman behind Makelab, a Brooklyn-based 3D Printing company– you realise that the current under-representation of diverse and immigrant communities in 3D Printing– as well as in Engineering, Industrial Design, and their ancillary industries– is actually limiting their potential.
“As an industrial designer, your job is to bridge two things together, and find commonalities– find that common thread. And figure out the way to bridge them together, to make something beautiful. That’s one of the approaches you take, in terms of design thinking.”
She built on this idea, taking the argument from design– the field in which she specialised while studying as an undergrad at New York’s Pratt Institute– to business.
“You don’t want to be in your bubble, as a business leader. The more you’re in your bubble, you’re gonna hit a wall very quickly, and you’re gonna stunt your own growth. So I always find that diverse and different ways of thinking should be welcome into a business leaders’ frame of mind, and their everyday. You should always be exploring. […] That’s why it’s really important to build that into your team, right, into key roles in your organisation.”
As a sector you might not typically think of as creative or artistic, 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing are renowned for not being hugely diverse in terms of gender and race– and Christina knows this all too well. “I think that this entire industry can grow a lot more if we’re a lot more inclusive. I think it’s better for everyone.” Her involvement with Women in 3D Printing, an international network with over 10,000 members, speaks to her beliefs about a more inclusive future for her industry– and that serious action is needed to get us there.
In an interview with TCT Magazine in June, she reiterated, “If we all adopt a pay-it-forward attitude and really put in the work and effort to reach more and connect more, I don’t see how it wouldn’t result in more diversity and inclusion.” On a rainy day in Brooklyn, we sat down to chat with Christina about the power of the Wi3DP network, her journey to becoming a leader and co-founder of two companies, and the role models that inspired her along the way.
One of Makelab’s 3D Printers in action
Christina Perla studied Industrial Design at the Pratt Institute in New York. After graduating, she worked for several companies in design and product development before deciding to go freelance. Around the same time, she and her partner Manny Mota started their own design and development firm, Tangent Design, of which she is Co-Founder and Creative Director. With Tangent, they combined “an artistic attention to detail” with “an engineering approach, to make every design decision functional and purposeful” (Source). They acquired 3DUniPrint, a 3D printing company with whom they’d been working closely; a natural acquisition, as part of the iterative design process they used at Tangent. Within a few months, they had renamed 3DUniPrint to ‘Makelab’, where Christina is currently CEO. A politically and socially-conscious 3D printing company, Makelab strives to simplify the process of realising creative ideas. At last count, Makelab has completed over 200,000 prints, on over 10,000 projects for 6,000 clients– ranging from engineering firms to event producers, including Silvercup Studios, OMA, AECOM, Yahoo, Oath, AOL, and collaborations with Jaden Smith, NVIDIA, and many more. A Downtown Brooklyn article from last November said that “[Makelab’s] primary source of marketing is simply doing a good job”– and they do it with heart.
If it wasn’t enough to have founded a company and acquired a second one within two and half years, Christina is also an NYC Ambassador and, as of earlier this year, a Board Director for ‘Women in 3D Printing’, an industry network that spans 23 countries, with 65 chapters, and over 10,000 community members.
When Covid-19 hit New York in March, Makelab pivoted and dedicated 75% of their machines and resources to the production of PPE– starting with a trialling process, which tested for effectiveness and safety. They now produce a range of PPE, including custom mask fitters, face shields, and mask extenders, and they’ve also helped to prototype ventilator parts and adaptors for more testing. In April, Makelab received a Hello Alice ‘Business for All’ COVID-19 Emergency Grant, to help them continue producing healthcare equipment (Source), and between April and May they nearly tripled their orders for face shields. Makelab worked with “hospitals in New York and New Jersey”.
For all of this– for her tireless passion for elevating women in 3D Printing and Technology, for her love of creativity and innovative design, and her incredible resourcefulness and ingenuity– she is one of our dream Collaborators, and we’re so glad to be talking to her.