Collin Kobayashi, 3D Designer/Engineer

  • Name: Collin Kobayashi

  • Education: Master's of Business Administration (MBA), B.S. in Manufacturing Design
  • Target Audience: Middle School

3D designers like Collin Kobayashi are engineering the future through innovative product development using 3D technology. Read on to learn why being a 3D designer/engineer is such a cool job!

What is your job?

imageIn addition to managing and operating 3D Innovations as President and Principle Consultant, I work to turn 2D sketches into a 3D object through the use of a software program called CAD. CAD stands for Computer-aided Design and is the first step in starting the product development cycle. Most products that are made today are designed through the use of CAD, from your iPhone or iPad to tables and chairs.

I also work in an educational capacity to provide 3D CAD and pre-engineering training for middle, high school, and post- secondary education students with the 3D Academy, a division of 3D Innovations.

Why did you choose this career?

CAD came out in the late 1980's as a 2D system. My interest in product design started as I was finishing high school in the mid 1990's. At that time the market was changing from 2D to 3D and once I learned what 3D is all about I was hooked. From there I wanted to be involved with the design and manufacturing processes to learn about different industries and how systems are designed to fit with today's technology. I was also interested to see the various engineering aspects of technology products.

imageOnce I was established in the field I became interested in helping students learn about 3D engineering. 3D Academy was started as an extension of 3D Innovations, taking the engineering/design and manufacturing processes and integrating it with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs that enable students to learn important core academic skills. STEM education has been supported for many years now to provide students with industry and real life skills. My motivation for starting 3D Academy was to provide students with these valuable opportunities that were not available to me during my high school education and to prepare them for a competitive technological career.

Explain what an average day at work is like for you.

When we begin a project for a client, one of the most common things that we get from them is some sort of idea or input that could be in the form of a picture, sketch or in some cases a detailed drawing. Customers come to us because they need to have their idea taken from their 2D format and turned into a 3D model. Once we get the idea plugged into the CAD program we then refine it based on customer needs. Sometimes the clients need the object to look a certain way or function in a certain way and we ensure those aspects are integrated into the 3D model.

Can you talk a little bit about 3D printing?

One of the methods we use to validate a completed design is 3D printing. 3D printing has been around for 15 or so years now, but it has really come alive in the past 2 or 3 years through more robust technology. 3D printing builds a product in layers based on a CAD design. If you can imagine taking an everyday water bottle that stands about 8 inches high, through 3D printing technology we are able to print it in many paper-thin layers and evaluate if our design will work. One of the greatest benefits of 3D printing is that it allows us to test and evaluate product designs before they go to market.

What do you like best about your job?

imageThe best part about the work I do is seeing ideas and concepts that clients bring to us develop into real products that enter the market and become available for consumers to buy. The diversity of projects we work on also keeps things interesting, as no two projects are exactly alike and each project is unique. At 3D Innovations we support military, aerospace, medical devices, locomotive, clean energy solar/wind projects and many other industries. We're based in Hawaii, and locally we have worked on small wind turbine systems and helped a medical device company design and develop a wireless monitoring system. This wireless system we designed for the medical device company allows a laser beam to be placed close to a patient to gather vital signs instead of needing to hook a patient up to numerous wires. image We also got to help a company develop a shark deterrent system. This system is an ankle bracelet that you wear into the water and it emits different pulses and signals in the water that help keep the sharks away.

With 3D Academy I really enjoy seeing students achieve new skills and watching them progress with their projects. Seeing their initial and continuing interest in engineering is really rewarding. I love hearing teachers say that without this type of program/training, their students would have never become involved with STEM and this type of technology.

When you were a kid, did you like science, engineering and/or math? If so, what subject did you enjoy most and why?

As a kid, I always liked to play with electronics and computers, but I never really liked science or math. Looking back I realize that what I didn't like about science and math was the fact that these subjects weren't integrated into real-life applications. In class we would study a principle or method of doing something, but then it was never really tied into a real-life scenario. As I got to use CAD and get involved with different aspects of it, I could really see how math and science principles apply. That was sort of the missing link for me. In the career that I chose the science and math principles that I learned in school are a real necessity.

Was there a moment when you knew that you wanted to become a 3D engineer? Tell us about it.

Being involved with the advances in the early stages of this industry was exciting and motivated me to continue down this pathway. Being able to see that designing a product or system was within my realm solidified my decision to further develop my knowledge to enter this industry and career path.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a 3D engineer?

Most of the technical classes that I took in college were challenging because I was never exposed to the areas that my peers had been exposed to for several years. My personal challenge was trying to keep pace with my peers and apply what I was learning to my educational projects, and eventually my daily career activities. Behind all technical activities lies the entrepreneurial aspect of my business. The main challenges are trying to position the business to provide the best possible service while monitoring any changes in the market that might affect our company business model. Keeping up with technology is always challenging as it changes rapidly and systems quickly become obsolete.

Was there a person who inspired or convinced you to get involved in your field? Who was he/she and how did he/she do it?

Initially, I was not inspired or convinced by anyone to get into the areas of entrepreneurship, engineering/design or manufacturing. Yet, throughout the years of my career, I have met many people and colleagues who have shared their vision of business and technology, which had a profound effect on me. I really believe those experiences positively impacted my decision to remain in the interdisciplinary field that I'm currently in.

Do you have any suggestions for how kids in middle school can get practical experience in your field?

imageOur studies have shown that this is a pivotal time for middle schools students to learn and become involved with STEM programs and activities. Grades 6-8 are the start of the pathway that gets students hooked on STEM. Try to find opportunities to use hands on or project-based learning activities to see first-hand what STEM education is really about. Check out robotics programs such as First and Vex Robotics - both are a great introduction to engineering.

Which high school courses would you recommend to incoming high school students?

imageMore high schools today are focusing on career pathway programs that provide a structured and specialized curriculum for the field the student is pursuing. These various pathways are generally split into four different areas of STEM. Each pathway would have a particular set of elective courses that are generally industry driven. For example, a technology pathway could involve elective courses like Web Design, Animation, 3D CAD, Engineering/Design, etc. These types of elective courses give students an introduction and, in some cases, a detailed understanding of the technology that drives these industries. They also provide students with opportunities to learn and utilize the same technology and software programs that are being used by industry professionals. This type of training gives students practical experience, essentially working side by side with these industry professionals while still in high school.

Are there exciting things happening in your field that could involve students who will enter the field in 10-15 years?

With the progression of 3D technology, there are no limits. I see this type of technology expanding to tablet devices and becoming more user-friendly. Other types of 3D technology such as 3D scanning will become more prevalent and provide for an interesting user experience. Processes that are currently manual or semi-automated will soon become fully automated and will require little user input to achieve outputs.

Quick Bytes:

  • Whether printing dinosaur bones or scanning a disaster site, 3D technology is everywhere! 
  • With the evolution of 3D Printing, new materials such as metal/metal alloys, chocolate, high strength plastics and even human tissue cells are now being developed and utilized for various applications.
  • 3D Printing technology is being integrated into aerospace applications and even adopted by NASA.
  • Most products today are designed and developed with the use of 3D CAD, CAE, and CAM software.


Techie Terms:

2-D (2-Dimensional): Dimensions are the different planes we experience the world in. The three dimensions we live in are height, width, and depth. When someone refers to something that is 2-D they usually mean it has height and width like a cartoon on your TV. You can measure how high a character stands and how wide he is but you can't measure how deep the scene is.
3D: A three-dimensional medium, display, or performance, especially a cinematic or graphic medium in three dimensions- height, width and depth.
Entrepreneur: a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.

(adapted from and