We had the good fortune of connecting with Mara Hitner and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Mara, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
Yes, historically we help schools and businesses get started or stay current with 3D printing.  This year we discovered a new way to help which noone could have seen coming.  A little background which will give you some context for how we responded to COVID-19: MatterHackers is the largest retailer of desktop 3D printers and materials. People like working with us because we are completely brand-agnostic. If you go to MatterHackers.com, you’ll see that we carry over 70 brands of desktop 3D printers, everything from $300 kits to high-temp machines that can print PEEK and Ultem for under $7k, and over 2000 types of material. Our clients are pretty much anyone who is designing anything. Prototypes, jigs, fixtures, tools, pre-surgical models for hospitals, etc. Schools from K-12 through to Universities and Trade Schools buy their 3D printers from us to train the next generation of STEM and additive manufacturing professionals, and we have our makers and enthusiasts. When COVID hit and we started hearing about the PPE shortage, I reached out to my hospital clients, and they told me they were printing face shields but couldn’t make them fast enough…do we know anyone who could help? So MatterHackers created the Maker Response Hub, (www.matterhackers.com/covid-19) where people with 3D printers could sign up to help, and hospitals could register their requests for 3D printed PPE. We emailed our customer list and hit our social media, and in about a week it grew to over 5,000 volunteers across the US with 14,000+ idle 3D printers to put to work. Once we got the 3DVerkstan shield design reviewed by the NIH 3D Print Exchange, we asked our volunteers to each print 50 shields and send them to our warehouse in Southern California. We repackaged their donations of 3D printed shields and ear savers to ship out to the hospitals that put in requests. Over 75,000 pieces of 3D printed PPE were delivered to 180+ facilities across the US. We also supported the grassroots organizations around the country with discounts on materials for their own local efforts – we were one of the only materials suppliers that actually had filament in stock because we carry a number of American brands. So we were able to fill different kinds of gaps. It was the first real, living example of localized, distributed additive manufacturing. It was the first time that this many desktop 3D printers were all being used at once to fill an immediate supply chain gap. And that’s the thing, what we had on our side was not speed, but sheer numbers, because schools, libraries, makerspaces, small businesses, and corporations all have access to inexpensive 3D printers.  

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I grew up in New York and moved to LA to pursue a record deal right after college. I was a solo singer/songwriter at the time and I had a bit of success, but ultimately decided to start an 80s cover band called Mara & The Big Rockstars, and we’ve been playing around LA for 15 years. I also started a 90s pop tribute band called Hit Me 90s: Tribute To 90s Pop which is a blast. Meanwhile, I always had a day-job in advertising sales. In 2013 I saw something about 3D printing on a TV show and I got curious about how things were made. I don’t come from engineering or computers or even design, but I am a creative person, and I was just fascinated by the idea that even *I* could make things like my own jewelry at home. I purchased a 3D printer from MatterHackers in Orange County the day before Thanksgiving of 2014, and they offered me a job as Director of Business Development shortly thereafter. Since then I’ve helped to build the 3D printing community around the country by telling the stories of our customers via articles, videos, and panels at conferences. It is the privilege of my life to share how K-12 schools, Universities, libraries, businesses, Etsy shop owners, engineers, architects, radiologists, humanitarian aid organizations, and global corporations are using 3D printing to make the world a better, safer, more interesting place every day.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
This question would take me a full week to answer!! Sunset Strip, Hermosa Beach, Topanga, Malibu, bike ride from Santa Monica to Redondo, Pasadena, my home stretch of Ventura Blvd. in Studio City, small theaters like Rockwell Table and Stage, Hollywood Bowl, Mission Tiki Drive In, The Lighthouse, The Standing Room, Saint Rocke, Comedy Store, The Greek, Canyon Club, The Rose, and Hugo’s.  At least once a week, Hugo’s.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The biggest help with 3D printing PPE in LA was Ben Sax and Crash Space LA.  There were hundreds of makers and schools and other organizations who 3D printed parts, and donors who helped to keep it all going.  Special shoutout to Phillips 66 who sponsored some of our local efforts for first responders in LA – especially Juliana Moreno who was not only organizing drops of PPE, but also meals, gift cards, sanitizer, you name it.  The generosity of the LA community astounds.

Website: www.matterhackers.com
Instagram: @matterhackers
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/marahitner/
Twitter: @3DPGirl

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