Understanding and Supporting Newcomers to 3D Modelling and Digital Fabrication
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Interest in understanding and facilitating 3D digital fabrication is growing in the HCI research community. However, most of our insights about end-user interaction with fabrication are currently based on interactions of professional users, makers, and technology enthusiasts. This thesis documents my studies of newcomers to 3D modelling and printing, users who have no prior experience with fabrication and mainly explore walk-up-and-use 3D printing services at public print centers, such as libraries, universities, and schools. I first carried out exploratory research consisting of 32 interviews with newcomers to 3D printing, print center operators, and fabrication experts to better understand the motivations, workflows, and barriers newcomer face in appropriating 3D printing technologies. A major theme in these interviews was the use of online platforms to retrieve and print premade models as an alternative to the complex 3D modelling workflow. I conducted further investigation into Thingiverse, the largest online 3D design sharing community, investigating users’ activities and their conversations by using quantitative and qualitative analyses. Finally, based on my observations with newcomers and the conversations on Thingiverse, I developed MarmalAid, an online 3D modelling system integrated with contextual help that can facilitate conversations and help seeking throughout the 3D modelling process.