Monday, February 25, 2013

3D Printing the Future

A MakerBot hard at work.

I've been following the consumer 3D printing scene for a long while now and it's amazing to see the progress and developments that have been made in desktop 3D printing technology.  There's essentially been an explosion of 3D printers that have hit the market (through various means such as crowd sourcing-based Kickstarter, etc.) in the last 6 months with the most recent Kickstarter "3D printing" hit being the 3Doodler, a handheld ABS / PLA filament extruder which can be used to construct little artsy creations from plastic "wire."   What's really mind-blowing is how unbelievably simple the 3Doodler is (as I mentioned already, it's just the extruder / heater assembly from a desktop 3d printer fitted within a "pen-shaped" case, with literally the whole system costing dollars to make), yet the creators have become millionaires overnight--It's insane to ponder, but yet again I digress.

Last year I discovered a local Seattle gem, being the Metrix Createspace, which is described as a "hacker space" or basically a fully-fledged workshop for "Makers" of technical projects.  They offer tons of super cheap services including laser cutting, 3D printing, soldering, sewing, crafting, etc. and are open till midnight everyday.  Metrix is one of the coolest places Seattle has to offer--it's like all of Seattle's awesome techno wizardry condensed into an amazing "open-sourced hangout workshop."  Take a look at their VR tour page if you don't believe me.

Anyway, Metrix hosted a 2 hour workshop on 3D printing design which I just recently attended--the workshop ended up being 4.5 hours long but was pretty fantastic and insightful.  The future of consumer-level 3D printing has just begun and it is so very bright.  There are some issues associated with the technology such as intellectual property control and rights over 3D printed objects, but while the tech is not yet mainstream the solutions to these discussions are pending.  I learned quite a lot about the history of 3D printing and design considerations of printed objects.  There is so much untapped potential it's hard not to be excited about the ramifications of the technology.  I need to brush up on my 3D modelling / CAD skills and start putting my written ideas into fruition.

A hanging shio occolus.

While I was at Metrix I noticed there were a few shio lights hanging from the ceiling, which are really awesome "light sculptures" made from salt (crystallized sodium chloride) [shio / しお / 塩 is Japanese for salt].  I found out about shio lights last year on Kickstarter as well but didn't remember or realize that their studio is located here in Seattle.  The shio lights are insanely expensive (around $1000 each), but there's nothing like them on the market so I guess they have their own little niche.  I'd like to try my hand at making one using my chemistry background, but it seems like it might be a pretty messy process.  Maybe one day.

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