Testimonial: Owen Collins

Setting The Scene with the Afinia 3D Printer

Owen Collins is a Professor and Head of the Department of Theatre at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA, about 3 hours southwest of Washington, DC.


Owen had always enjoyed theater’s “technical side”. “My dad is an architect, and through him, I developed an interest in drafting. During the late 80’s I was employed at his firm and learned how to use computer drafting tools.”

“During graduate school, I became interested in how computers were used to control the “technical side” of the production: lighting, sound and video affects. I worked in New York City for a year and then got a job teaching theater.”

Kits vs. Out-of-the-Box 3D Printing

“Four years ago, I bought a 3D printer kit. It looked easy to assemble, but it was a lot harder than it appeared. All told, it was really a great experience, the soldering and playing with electronics. After a good couple of years, however, I found that I was spending too much time tinkering and not enough time printing.”

“I happened to see the Afinia 3D printer in Make Magazine’s “Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing” and immediately bought one. Based upon their review, I knew that I’d be printing, right out-of-the-box.”

From 2 to 3 (Dimension, that is)

“At Washington and Lee, the Afinia fits really well into our creative process. Before I had a 3D printer, I would draft models and stage layouts in 2D and review the drawings with the Director. I still design my models and sets in 2D and, more importantly, have figured out how to export and print stls. Directors really like to see and feel the physical objects. They find it extremely helpful.”

Alexander the Great

“Our Afinia 3D printer has also found a home in prop design… When we produced a play called The Nerd, which is set in an architect’s home, we needed stuff on the walls and to decorate the room. It was easy to print custom posters on a large format printer. The art objects I needed were just as easy. I downloaded a scanned sculpture of Alexander The Great. I 3D printed it on the Afinia and painted it bronze. To the actors and the audience, it looks like the real thing.”

“It has been used in all of our other productions as well. For Arsenic & Old Lace, we created toy World War I period toy battleships and soldiers.”

Even for Dummies

“We use 3D printing to produce plays that would normally have been too expensive. One of our Senior students wants to stage a Twilight Zone episode, in which a Ventriloquist gets turned into a dummy. I love the story, and, initially, it seemed cost-prohibitive because the student needed 2 or 3 dummies, which cost around $1,000/each. Now, I am scanning the actor’s faces, 3d printing them and will be able to create the dummies at a fraction of the cost.”

“Because of this , 3D printing is now integrated into our curriculum. We teach a Directing class, where, originally, the students would be on the stage, moving furniture around so that they could visualize where the characters should be and how the set should look. Now, we have 3D printed scale models that the students move during the “blocking” process. It takes a whole lot less effort.”

Little-Known Design Software

“To accomplish these things, I use Vector Works as my design software, it’s not very well known. It has integrated tools for lighting design. It’s a no brainer. I can create the set design and add in the lighting. I had never took advantage of Vector Works’ 3D file exporting capabilities until I had the Afinia.”

3D Printer on the Podium

“Due to my 3D printing experience, I was asked to be a panelist at the most recent US Institute for Theater Technology Conference and Stage Expo. During the discussion, the other panelists were talking about their printers. I brought mine and was able to show the attendees how it worked and what it produced. Its pretty amazing to see things created right in front of you.”


“The beauty of imagination is that you can buy into and embrace a story. When done correctly, it can transport and transform you. The fun of these shows is that we create experiences that cause the audience talk about the human condition and gain empathy for others. The Afinia 3D printer makes it easy. It’s also really reliable, I printed more than 30lbs. of material before it had its first very minor hiccup.”