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A Coffee Break with: Stephen Holmes

Product designers are ingenuitive and ideas-driven and cant turn themselves off at night. They probably had ideas bubbling for years and the pandemic allowed those to hatch and just blow up.

Stephen Holmes is a positive force in the 3D product design industry. The recently appointed Editor in Chief at DEVELOP3D has big ambitions to take the magazine to a broader audience and use its voice to amplify the coolest 3D design ideas emerging from all corners of the globe.

The DriveWorks team have been reading DEVELOP3D magazine for the last 14 years. Heather from the DriveWorks team recently shared a virtual coffee with Stephen to chat through his plans for the publication and get his perspective on how the past two years have affected the 3D design industry.

Stephen, where did your passion for 3D engineering come from?

After my Masters in journalism, I worked for Sellafield the big nuclear decommissioning company in the UK. Even 14-15 years ago they were working with robotics and trying to solve really complex legacy problems using digital technologies.

It was fascinating working with the industry journalists, getting an idea of their outside view, but also understanding what the engineers on-site were doing every day.

How has DEVELOP3D changed since you joined 12 years ago?

We still produce a good old-fashioned paper magazine the type you can roll up, throw in a bag for the plane and pull it out when you have a bit of time its great.

But we all have a supercomputer in our pocket now so many of our readers prefer a digital version.

We use the website more as a news ticker, so professional designers and engineers on their lunch break can get a bit more information on the things theyre interested in.

What are your plans now youre Editor in Chief?

Im fascinated by the people behind the products, so Im always on the search for interesting stories about people doing creative things finding intriguing angles and really cool uses of technology to get around problems. Here in the UK particularly, were not good at talking about what were good at a lot of the time, so Im keen to do more of that.

Were also looking to grow our readership. We have a great base in the UK and a huge readership in the US, but we want to grow in emerging markets like India, where our reader numbers really grew during the pandemic.

A global perspective is really important to us; were particularly keen to get more of an idea of how people in different parts of the world are designing places like Japan and Korea where the design scene is really exciting.

Whats your perspective on the last two years for the industry?

Its been extraordinary. At an industry level, weve seen an acceleration of reshoring of manufacturing bringing jobs and production back to the US or the UK.

On a more micro level, in terms of design progress, its been fascinating. Weve seen the greatest number of new companies registered in the last year or so because people are having these amazing ideas. Designers at home with a 3D printer and internet have been collaborating with friends, talking about their concepts, launching with Kickstarters and crowdfunding, and starting up. Its allowed people to pursue their inventions and its really been a highlight of the pandemic. It means more manufacturing, more software needed, more development and more collaboration.

How do you feel about events being put back?

We cant wait for DEVELOP3D Live to be back in November. Just that opportunity for thousands of people to congregate, who all work in the same software and technologies its just brilliant.

Obviously, the challenge of running a live event is huge the overheads, the risks weve already had to put DEVELOP3D Live back a few times, but weve held off for so long now that were really excited to go ahead later this year.

Tell us what to expect at DEVELOP3D Live

The most important thing for us is giving our readers the opportunity to meet one another, mingle and share ideas. Where else would you get jewellery designers, consumer device manufacturers, automotive, aerospace, and aircraft carrier designers chatting, sharing ideas and picking up useful information in the same room?

But we also have a great speaker line up from across the globe, a lot of interest from big software vendors and were planning fantastic spaces for businesses to present their new ideas and launch their new products. Its going to be terrific.

What have been your biggest wow moments in terms of 3D design over the past few years?

One of the most interesting parts of our job is watching that curve of enlightenment when new tech arrives and goes to the top of the hype cycle and then starts crawling back out. We saw it with 3D printing and now were seeing it with VR and AR headsets.

When they first came out the mainstream press went crazy for them, but they gave people headaches and really werent very good. Were now at the point where the technology has been specialised in the same way as 3D printing and the new headsets are ridiculous. They cost the earth, but theyre amazing. That shift in a short space of time from terrible trash to incredible technology is probably my biggest wow.

But Im also fascinated in how tools like SOLIDWORKS are affecting design. The best part of my job is seeing the reactions and passion from hardcore users about their work tools.

Maintaining a neutral stance towards the technologies you feature has always been very important to DEVELOP3D, why is that?

Our neutrality is critical to the work we do. People use different software and different tools and we need to be realistic about that and also give smaller technologies the exposure that we know they deserve.

Engineers like to collaborate and share their experiences, and actually thats why we love the SOLIDWORKS community.

People genuinely want to help each other, they want to learn, and its fun non-work work. Its why we cant wait to be back at DEVELOP3D Live because we all need to get together and have that human contact.

We couldnt agree more and thats why DriveWorks will be exhibiting at DEVELOP3D Live in November.

To keep up with news on the event and everything else in the world of product development technologies, subscribe to DEVELOP3D at

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