Monday, October 22, 2012

The Future is Here: 3D Print show 2012

"The internet changed the world in the 1990's. It's about to change again" - 3D Print Show

What's a 3D Printer?

A 3D printer is a machine that prints physical products, layer by layer. It's a process called additive manufacturing. It's an old technology, which started in the 1980s. It's almost as old as the internet.

This is a sleek 3D printer for the home.[[posterous-content:pid___11]]

And this is one of the most popular 3D printers out there from Makerbot: The replicator 2.[[posterous-content:pid___12]]


What can you do with a 3D printer?

You can print physical objects out of digital models in different materials. Mainly, it's plastic. However there are 3D printers that can do it in gold, titanium, stainless steel, bio-materials, corn startch, chocolate, etc.

Here are a few examples for the show.


Who cares about 3D printing?

Manufacturers care. A lot of companies use 3D printers to prototype and test parts. It's faster and cheaper to do it this way. DIY and hackers care. It's a jewel for any maker who wants to make stuff. Businesses and retailers care. A 3D printer allows you to make a product only when a sale is made. So you don't need to have stock. You don't need to have to throw unsold products either.

And, Children care. I saw a lot of children playing around with 3D modeling software. They understand it. Maybe easily thanks to computer and console games.

Here is a game called printcraft. It let's children create their own structures and shapes using Mindcraft and then print them.


[[posterous-content:pid___5]]Here is another kid looking at a 3D model of himself. He was scanned using a $20,000 scanner for industry.[[posterous-content:pid___7]]And that's me![[posterous-content:pid___9]]

So what's the future for this?

I think the dream is obvious. The unspoken truth is this. One day, you will purchase your products online, on the iTunes of 3D printing. And you will click print. Then your 3D printer will print your product out with different materials. Voila!

Of course, we are very far away from this. However, something very similar is happening and it's close than you think. One of the things I discovered is a new market for business, retail and designers.

I think it will be known as Co-design. Let me explain it with an example. Imagine you want to buy this designer cup. (see picture below).[[posterous-content:pid___10]]

It's only available online. So you go to the online store, and you get the choice to buy it now, or customize it through an online 3D software for free. So you change the scale, you twist it a bit, you add your name, you add a color. And then you buy it. It get's 3D printed and sent to you.

As a designer who created this cup. You have to prepare your design to be co-designed. As in, prepare it to be modified and re-designed by others, many times. Some aspects of the design will be fixed. See this lamp for example. The scale, color, texture and pattern are fixed. What the consumer can do is modify it gently... And that changes everything.


This is a strong trend because it allows the consumer to have a bespoke "designer" product that is unique. For now, the perception of 3D printing is still positive and considered as different and innovative. What is exciting for designers is that they will have to exercise their ability through the open source and hacker culture. And there is a new criteria for good design:

Good design is redesignable.

It's such a great challenge to create a product that can evolve and change but still keeps it's DNA. Let's see what happens.

If you have thoughts or ideas/questions, just write them in the comments below.

A small note

At a time like this, I cannot but mention my country and my city. Lebanon is going through a tough time. The assassination of brigadier general of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces Wissam al Hassan on Friday killed 8 other people and changed the lives of 100 others in Beirut. Since then, fighting and protests irrupted many places around the country. The tension is enforcing political and sectarian devide between communities in Lebanon. At a time like this, I cannot but ask Beirut to stay strong, stay safe and stay united.

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