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Humans of Manufacturing

Astrophysicist Becomes Manufacturing Software Developer

Meredith McLinn Helps Refine Software Used for Medical Devices that Enable Blind People to See with Their Tongues

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When Meredith McLinn started her education in physics, she didn’t know it would put her on the path to such a fun, rewarding, challenging and engaging career in manufacturing.

“I had no idea what I wanted to get a degree in or what I wanted my career to be, but I decided I was obligated to do whatever I was capable of doing,” said McLinn. “I started taking math classes, then physics, and I continued to take physics since I was passing the classes. I became intrigued with how the underlying principles of the world work. You could say I accidently studied physics.”

McLinn attended Minnesota State University Moorhead to earn a bachelor of science in physics with an emphasis in astronomy and a minor in computer science—which ended up being her springboard into the manufacturing industry.

“I wanted to solve different, interesting problems, and to me, the manufacturing industry is great because it has problems that aren’t anyone’s fault—problems that are inherently physical in nature,” said McLinn. “I feel like we’re solving engineering problems in a way that no one else has.”

McLinn is a manufacturing software developer for Protolabs. When starting to work at Protolabs, McLinn would walk the shop floor a lot. “I felt like I needed to understand what we were doing,” said McLinn. “Sometimes I’d visit the shop floor to figure out more about a part. Plus, it’s interesting to hear what kinds of manufacturing issues we run into when trying to make certain features.”

“I wanted to solve different, interesting problems, and to me, the manufacturing industry is great because it has problems that aren’t anyone’s fault—problems that are inherently physical in nature. We’re solving engineering problems in a way that no one else has.”
Meredith McLinn

She writes software that analyzes CAD-designed parts and helps engineers communicate concerns to a wider audience. McLinn is involved with every injection molding part made. She and her team write the design-for-manufacturability analysis systems to figure out how to make a mold.

“It feels nice to know I’m helping foster innovation by making prototyping and small-run production more accessible,” said McLinn. “For example, with the software we create and refine, we’re aiding medical device companies that give a sense of vision to blind people.” The device enables blind people to see with their tongue.

“We also provided University of Minnesota LPRD Rocketry students with 3D-printed parts to launch a rocket,” said McLinn. “It is very fulfilling to know that my contributions are making manufacturing more accessible.”

Besides working full-time as a manufacturing software developer, McLinn volunteers for Hypatia Software Organization, which seeks to end homelessness of those experiencing trans-misogyny by teaching software development skills. She also dabbles in different artistic endeavors where she often marries her creative and analytical talents and interests. Her most recent project was designing an electric harp that outputs in MIDI, making it compatible with a wide array of commercial synthesizers.

“My story demonstrates that pursuing the kinds of problems you want to solve and learning about them can prepare you for opportunities you never even knew existed,” said McLinn. “At the end of the day, I ended up where I am because I decided I wanted to do something interesting and engaging at each step of my journey, and I found that in the manufacturing industry.”

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