A couple of years ago I heard about this wild, new technology called 3D printing. It excited me, but was so completely out of my reach: far too expensive and much too technical for my peanut brain, I have no CAD experience, and no money to pay people to create renderings and computer models for me. No way....right? As a child of the 60's, the futuristic implications were all too enticingly Jetsonian....I used to avidly watch the cartoon and clearly remember feeling that their life felt familiar to me, not "out of this world" at all! Fast forward, into the present...infinity and the beyond are HERE! and the idea of owning a 3D printer is no longer out of my world.
As an artist who loves the process of experimenting and is very interested in how I can make materials do things they are not supposed to do, find new applications on old materials, and the old-time-y processes of handicraft such as sewing, embroidery, weaving and more in exciting applications that push boundaries, 3D printing is perfect for me.
So, what IS 3D printing....just a bunch of stupid and useless figurines to play with, right?
That is what some believe. What I believe, is that this technology is in its infancy, that it will completely revolutionize Everything, that it will positively impact our manufacturing, medical world, means of travel, and so on. It will prove less costly and will be less of a drain on the environment, and it will be to our lives in the (near) future, what computers are to us today. We can't live without them. After all....who ever thought almost every home would have a computer when they first started really hitting every day life 20 or so years ago?!
Click on this: Here is an overview of 3D printing.
I kept talking with my husband about what a great thing it was, but also as a stock buying opportunity for us. Still in its "infancy" there is no clear "leader" although Makerbot seems to be dominating the industry as the main 3D printer of choice for the institutions and individuals already availing themselves of the technology on a lay basis. There are TONS of Kickstarters featuring 3D printing as everyone races to be the fastest entry into the industry, or at least....the most financed?!
Then, a few months ago, my husband was given an incredible opportunity within the company he works for to head up a Future Experiences division, a new position that included gaining knowledge and experience in 3D printing and applying that to advertising. It was serendipity. (Great timing too, as we just became empty nesters after 27 years of raising children. You will find us, in our jammies, checking our printing in the middle of the night, eerie glowing light of the printer illuminating our fevered faces....well, at least we aren't wondering what the heck we have in common post-kids nor worrying too excessively about what our kids are getting into!)
Fast forward to today, September 21, 2014. Here are some of the pieces I have made thus far. As I write this, our new 3D printer is speeding its way here! No, we didn't buy a Makerbot, but a Lulzbot TAZ 4. Its features convinced us that it was the right printer for the things I am conceiving in my head.
So, what are the cons of this technology? ARE there any....?
Well, as of now, 3D printers can utilize a variety of materials and that is advancing daily as more materials are added. One of those materials -- the most common one -- is PLASTIC, a "dirty" word in today's society! However, new advancements in plant-based, biodegradable materials that work like plastic that will replace PLA are already available and will soon become mainstream and replace harmful plastics. Concrete, metal, meat, chocolate, these are already THERE. I will be able to print myself a knee replacement (better sooner than later!) You will print your clothes when you wake up in the morning, thus leading to zero waste, zero pollution, zero distribution....
3D printers print on demand, which means less storage, less distribution needs, more efficient, easier on the environment.
This technology will advance so quickly, it will only be those with money who can stay caught up, a situation similar to computers...once yours gets too old, it won't do anything new...
I know that I am excited, and learning more each day. I am definitely a newbie to this, and I am ready for the technology that will allow me to scan something with my phone and send it right to my printer (since I am no techie!) That way, I can scan one of my existing artworks, tweak it on the computer, and send the manipulated version for a brand new adaptation, hurtling to reality.
I hope you'll come along for my ride!