In the middle of a global pandemic, Christian Nunez, a second-year plant science student from West Covina, launched an online business that produces replicas of Cal Poly Pomona’s iconic CLA Building. Struggling with mental health brought upon by the health crisis and the shift to virtual learning, Nunez found that the business was a positive distraction to keep his mind off the pandemic.
Nunez expressed a desire to be productive when “mandatory stay-at-home orders for days, weeks and months meant days would otherwise blur together, if not for keeping the mind active and healthy,” Nunez said. “Mental well-being was not only a priority for me at that point, but it was for survival in a time of uncertainty and mental strain.”
Nunez began to produce and sell 3D-printed models of the CLA building. On July 18, his Flipped Dimension Store was officially up and running on Etsy.
Three CLA-inspired products are available for purchase — a model, a key chain and a pencil holder.
Nunez chose to recreate the CLA building due to its strong presence on campus. “I chose the CLA building specifically because it was just too unique to not try to model it. Not only is it distinctive to the campus and gazed upon by many, but it represents a timeless and stationary piece of CPP that watches students throughout their four years,” he said.
His main goal before opening his shop was to master the resemblance of the CLA building on a miniature scale using pictures from Antoine Predock, the senior architect of the building, as guidance.
During the initial planning stages, Nunez began by drawing out the base of the building with compositing software programs, such as Fusion and Tinkercad. After carefully studying the shape and images of the CLA building, he ensured that his digital prototype perfectly resembled the building. However, during his first attempts at creating the models, Nunez explained that he faced scaling issues and misprint difficulties.
As Nunez’s main priority is quality, he uses wood filament to print the models, which best reflects the overall color tones and feel of the CLA building. Once the models are fresh from the printer, he uses a screwdriver to remove unnecessary pieces and a blowtorch to shrink excess filaments. He then sands the model to get an even finish and perfect the final look. Once finished, the models are cleaned and ready to ship, alongside a business card and a set of stickers.
According to Nunez, the CPP community played a significant role in his business as he often turned to the university’s subreddit and other social media platforms for feedback on his models.
“I had shown some test prints on Cal Poly’s subreddit to gauge interest, and I had a lot of positive feedback and excitement,” he said. “I used that interest and feedback, such as one commenter who suggested that I make a pencil holder. Fast forward to the future and it turned out to be my most successful product.”
Nunez had never thought of creating a 3D-printing business before, as he originally planned to pursue a career managing large-scale botanical gardens. Nonetheless, Nunez is glad that his passion for creative projects and prior experience using 3D printers led him to start his online business.