Feb 28, 2018 | By Tess

Over the last few years, Naomi ‘SexyCyborg’ Wu has become one of the most popular makers in the 3D printing community, as well as one of the most outspoken women in the field. Hailing from the Chinese tech hub of Shenzhen, Wu has created and honed a maker brand that combines 3D printing and computer programming with feminine and often provocative wearables.

Her work, at once creative and playful, strives to break down barriers in the tech field and aims to change the dominant perspectives that exist in the industry. 3Ders got the chance to speak with Naomi Wu about her remarkable position within the maker community.

Being from Shenzhen, has technology always been a big part of your life?

Oh, not at all. Being in Shenzhen enabled me and still does, but tech was not really part of my life growing up. I guess it’s like growing up in L.A. or New York and wanting to be an actor. It’s all around you and all the resources are there, but it does not really become part of your daily life until you want it to. 

I started learning to code in college because I needed the money, had good math and English, and friends who could point me towards tutorials and later work. I didn’t have any real interest in tech until later.

And when did you become interested in 3D printing?

Website development, at least the sort I did, is not really all that satisfying. I did mostly documentation and code cleanup for other coders. Hardware and 3D printing is quite a bit more fun because it gives you something you can hold in your hand or, in my case, wear outside. It’s kind of like the difference between writing out recipes and actually baking cookies. The physical results are a lot more enjoyable.

By simply being a prominent female figure in the 3D printing and tech industries, you’re helping to break down some pretty rigid barriers. Has yours been a difficult journey as an outspoken woman in the field?

Sure, people were pretty hesitant at first. Anything sexy+tech has pretty much always been bad for women and there was every reason to think the combination always would be.

However, right now we live in a world where clicks determine who hears your message and where men have a near monopoly on directing portrayals of two of the best drivers of traffic: sex and violence. Women are less comfortable with these things: our STEM YouTube channels don’t usually have guns, destruction, and explosions, so that leaves sex and/or skin, which have always been used in such an awful way, so it’s reasonable to dismiss them. Since women often don’t capitalize on these traffic drivers (understandably), the general public often misses our message. I play around with that dynamic.

How do you see your role in the 3D printing and tech fields right now?

Historically, exposed skin is something that men have employed in marketing or for their own pleasure. Individual women may use it to self-promote, but a women-in-tech-promoting booth babe who is demonstrably competent and won’t be told by anyone what to wear? It’s almost unheard of. I don’t think it’s inherently good or bad—it could be either depending on how it’s done. You have to stay vigilant and engaged so you don’t end up being some sort of example that men use against other women. You have to be careful and focused on the goals of the community, not just self-promotion.

Being Chinese, I’m completely at ease getting guidance from older, more experienced women so that’s very much part of how I work. That’s worked out quite well, and while I think some people will never be comfortable with how I present myself and my work, I’m comfortable that my efforts so far seem to be productive.

How did you react when you first learned about Make: Magazine founder Dale Dougherty’s unfounded comments about you this past November?

It was shocking that he posted it. Rumors and quietly circulated emails—stuff you can’t fight or refute—are usually how it works and had worked up until Dale’s comments. Dale saying it out in the open like that was pretty surprising. 

That being said, had he simply stuck with the existing playbook of running a whisper campaign, as is usually done with non-conforming women, the situation probably would not have been resolved as well as it has been. Since the incident, Make: has followed the negotiated resolution to the letter and received a tremendous amount of good will for it, as they should.

On a more technological note, is there a particular 3D printer you find yourself using on a regular basis? Can you speak a bit about your process?

I’m not one of those people who enjoy fiddling with 3D printers a lot. I get the appeal: hours in Simplify3D making custom settings for different layer heights for each different filament, printing out dozens of Benchy boats, and posting that one image of a perfectly calibrated print. It can be fun and rewarding. But honestly, I hate mucking about with settings. I like to just hit “print.” I don’t require stunning 0.1mm prints but I also have no patience for failed prints—ever. So far, the Flashforge Guider II 3D printer with its FlashPrint software has really hit that sweet spot for me and that’s what I use every day. Of course, for absolute print quality, size, or speed there are better 3D printers depending how much you value one attribute over another. But for my needs, I don’t know anything better.

And finally, out of all your wearable 3D printed projects, are there any that you regularly make use of?

My boots with 3D printed projectors get a lot of use, at least weekly during warm weather when I go out a lot. I also wear my 3D printed hardware/software hair ties on a regular basis. 

As a prolific maker, Naomi ‘SexyCyborg’ Wu has created a number of highly original designs that she has not only 3D printed but has also worn. From 3D printed hacker-kit heels to a wearable 3D printer, Wu does not shy away from incorporating some fun into her makes.

See some of our favorite 3D printed wearables designed by Wu over the years:

In 2015, Naomi ‘SexyCyborg’ Wu drew attention from the maker world for her Bluetooth-controlled miniskirt with LED under-lighting, as well as a pair of 3D printed high heels with a penetration test kit embedded into them.

2016 saw her not just wearing 3D printed items but also drones thanks to a 3D printed nano drone wrist mount and a companion controller belt buckle. Wu debuted the 3D printed accessories, complete with Cheerson CX-10D mini drones, at a local FPV drone racing event.

Months later, the Shenzhen-based maker also presented the “Infinity Skirt” made of 3D printed LED mirror tiles, and a simple but stylish crop top made from LCD Shutter Glass and 3D printed components.

Not a wearable, per se, but one of my personal favorite SexyCyborg makes is her 3D printed hacker kit disguised as a makeup palette. The portable cosmetics case is built to house a Raspberry Pi 3 single board computer that runs Kali Linux, a penetration testing and digital forensics distribution.

Wu made a splash this past summer with a red, white, and blue bikini made entirely from 3D printed components. And while the bathing attire didn’t seem quite as comfortable as one of its fabric counterparts, Wu did prove the piece was functional by wearing it in the pool.

What may have seemed like the final frontier for 3D printed wearables was when Wu took to the streets of Shenzhen wearing what else but a 3D printer. The machine, which was mounted on a backpack frame, can be seen in the video above actually printing parts while Wu walks around.

Excitingly for us (and the rest of the maker community), Naomi “SexyCyborg” Wu is now pursuing her 3D printed projects in a full-time capacity, showing that hard work, talent, and creativity can take you a long way. As she told us, “As of this month, I’m not coding anymore. It’s all vlogging, builds, reviews, and a bit of consulting for Chinese companies.”

Be sure to check 3Ders and Wu’s own platforms regularly to see what she is 3D printing next. Also, tune in next week for the second edition of our Maker Profile series.



Posted in Interviews



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JBWatkins in USA wrote at 4/4/2018 9:31:07 PM:

Someone more internet savvy than I, should set up a GouFundMe account for her. With over a quarter million YouTube followers, she could put Vice out of business... Go Girl!!!

A Feminist wrote at 4/4/2018 6:52:23 AM:

Richard ... she doesn't exist for you to be attracted to her She's awesome the way she is, and your opinion matters little.

Your King wrote at 4/3/2018 9:43:51 AM:

Vice magazine has put an end to her. Now let's put an end to Vice.

Richard wrote at 3/7/2018 6:05:36 AM:

I’ve seen a few of her videos, and frankly, I found her most sexy dressed in her overalls with her red bandana while working in her shop. Sure, lots of skin gives initial eye candy, but the sexiness that lasts is that of a woman with brains, who speaks three languages (Cantonese, Mandarin, English) with creativity, who could be part of a team—that’s the sexiness that attracts again and again.

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