Widgets Magazine

I'm A 3D Believer

Thoughts on the DIY revolution of 3D printing and AV Nations DIY show about this.

For those of you who have heard my commentary (okay, lets be honest here – Rants) on AV Week against 3D Television the title of this post may have given you pause. Rest assured my  assessment  of 3D video as a less than worthless are still in tact.  What I am becoming a full frenzied devotee of is the world of object printing .
Photo Courtesy of Bennett Harris/ HarrisEducational
If you are unsure of what 3D and object printing have to do with one another you are missing a movement that very well may change how we do nearly everything. What I have just written is a bold statement and one fraught with the dangers of over extended presumptions ala Steve Jobs euphoric babblings prior to the unveiling of the Segway.  Even so it can be said with fair confidence that 3D object printers will change how my kids interact with products. It may be that someday soon it will seem as imperative to business success to have a 3D printer version of an offering as it is to have a social media outlet today
There are a number of methods but essentially the printers produce an object by progressively adding substrate in a precise manner to create the item.  Depending on the process and materials used this could take hours or days and vary in quality but the end result is an actual item (key fob, drawer handle, gear or anything really).  This is the ultimate cyber-geek dream – coding to generate a physical item. It is all the code with the satisfaction of ‘hand crafting’. (Although in my experience most heavy users of 3D printers are heavy Techshop people).
To say that is is the coolest thing since Shopbot would be an understatement, if only slightly. The design to concept timeline can be cut down dramatically and can be done from the comfort of ones own bedroom – if so desired. Forget made in America, made in China – this is made in your home. People are making full scale models with working parts, scale models for Architecture and image mapping pre-production as well as one-of-a-kind customized design hardware.
Photo Courtesy of Bennett Harris/ HarrisEducational
Beyond the gee-whiz factor of the above this process has huge potential and my futurist self sees an end to manufacturing as we know it.  It will be disruptive like nothing else we can image, it may cause revolutions and riots worldwide, (yeah, really deep reality distortion field event horizon now), economies will change.
Right now the technology is still  nascent but I see a none too distant time (25 years?!) where my kids will be “downloading” the things they want to buy rather than going to a store (so horse and carriage!) or waiting for a delivery to arrive. With the advance in circuit boards that can be etched with the components as part of the board rather than added later and soldered – almost any device can be printed in parts then assembled.  Granted this excludes large ticket items like cars and appliances but in the increasingly miniaturized electronics world I would be surprised if someone has not already done this in a proof of concept.
Are you ready to take control ? It is (almost) yours for the making.
Manufacturers and retailers  will not take this lying down of course, not to mention the angst it will cause the labor force who rely on the jobs these sectors provide, and a serious fight is ahead. I fear that we will see attempts to put DRM restrictions on the proliferation of object codes and organizations like the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) sprout up to defend those who  pioneer the delivery and ‘receipt’ of such devices. It would be wise to review how the music industry did (good grief, still does) resist online proliferation and how it is an unstoppable channel when people decide just how they want products delivered. heck, look how hard publishers fought Amazon until it was clear that their clients demanded to get all titles via the online clearing house.
This grand future and nail biting  is a bit off  into the future (but not by much!) and right now the projects are fun and provide a way to keep ‘the little grey cells active’ as Hercule Poirot would say. On Episode 11  of the DIY Show with great guests Robert Gusek, Michael Kohler, Anthony Zoit and Jonathan danforth  we explore 3D printing, the tools, the techniques, how to get started,  what can and cannot be done and where it is all going.
I invite you to take a listen then tell us about your object printing experience, desires, concerns or straight out questions.

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