Profiled: Perry

Tell us a little about yourself.
Hi, my name is Perry Engel and I live in Connecticut where I work in IT. Back in the 80’s I owned an Atari ST, but now I own two dogs and four cats.

I consider myself creative and am most passionate about inventing. I am a creator, maker, tinkerer and DIYer, but tinkerer is a good catch-all. I modify most things I have and also make some things from scratch. I enjoy the process of trying something and seeing what works and then making more changes. Most products can be improved on by simple changes.

How did you get into 3D design?
I originally bought CAD3D and then trueSpace v2.3. I taught myself on both of these but I did get a few books when available. CAD3D had some nice features and was one of the first affordable 3d applications. The user interface was adequate for its day. It was a bit hard to build anything really complex due to memory and CPU speed.

trueSpace is actually a very good application. In fact I still use it. It has some nice features like extrusion, lathe mirroring, Boolean functions and many other features. It is probably closest to the environment in Tinkercad of the software I have used.

3D design is allowing more innovation to be made real in a much faster time…

How do you think web-based 3D design will change the world?
Rapid prototyping and collaborative design should help to speed innovation. One good example is during the chess challenge. Arian and I made similar chess sets at almost the same time (his was a toy chest and mine was childhood toys). This is not an uncommon phenomenon.

When many people are working on ideas in an environment, and see progress sometimes, they will have similar ideas crop up. This is actually good for several reasons. Some of the work can be picked through and best of both emerge. Also, in Thingiverse I see ideas I am working on being done by others. Some are ideas which I can improve on and some of mine will trigger innovation by others.

Overall, the collaborative aspect stimulates innovation and makes for faster progress. 3D design is allowing more innovation to be made real in a much faster time than before. I personally am OK at sculpting and building things, but being able to redesign in the computer allows me to make changes and spot problems before actually making a prototype.

What designer or inventor has influenced and inspired you the most?
R. Buckminster Fuller is best known as the inventor of the geodesic dome. He also had many designs which were not as well received in spite of their being very good ideas — something I can relate to!

Science fiction also inspires me. I like to try to solve problems that seem to need solutions. The expression, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention,” comes to mind. I carried a phone, a multi-tool (like a leatherman) and a flashlight. The belt holsters for the three was too much, so I made one for all three. Not a fashion item most would opt for, but I like having the items on hand and not in my pockets.

Going to close-out stores and looking at products that “failed” is also good for inspiration. Sometimes what we think is the better product, like Betamax, is not always the best winner. Marketing often is a bigger force then the product itself. Fashion often is also a bigger influence. Many good ideas are there to look over and lessons to be learned about why they were not the winner.

Sometimes I have a hard time figuring out why the better engineered didn’t win. One example is the PC. In the early days it was not a better platform then the Atari ST or the Amiga or the Mac, but market saturation of the PC made it the front-runner. Often things that are better (engineered) lose due to factors like fashion and marketing.

Words I live by…
Try to leave things better than how you found them. I think if more people would try to make things better everyone benefits.

What design are you the most proud of? 
A software website I made at work which interfaces to Sybase. I is used on my job. It is a combination of SQL, PERL, CGI and HTML. The Sybase database was accessed by an interface that was difficult to get the data out for the users. A web-based interface allowed them to get reports without having to know the specifics of the database.

Making the web CGI (the forms that process requests) was a challenge as it had to be able to first access the database to create drop down lists of available data (users, products, permissions, etc). The drop down lists are part of a page where they then choose and generate reports. PERL handles the CGI and lots of other text processing. It also has data I conflate from the DB into text files for faster access. This made reports which took hours to run previously take seconds. The PERL also dynamically generates the HTML forms as well as presenting the reports into .CSV format (ready for EXCEL). It is what you would call a Rube Goldberg-type of contraption, like the Game Mousetrap.

See more of Perry’s designs on Tinkercad and on Thingiverse.

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