Print-on-demand in three dimensions – Shapeways beta launches

Paul Raven @ 24-07-2008

Fabricated 3D trefoil objectVia Jamais Cascio and BoingBoing comes word of the beta launch of Shapeways, a Philips spin-off company that specialises in on-demand fabrication services. In other words, they’re like a LuLu for 3D objects: you design ‘em and email the files, they’ll “print” them out. Go check out their blog if you’re interested in seeing the machinery they use.

Fabbing is a great science fiction trope, because it has the potential to be used in both good and bad ways. For the good, companies would only ever need make as many of something as they could actually sell, leaving less for the landfills.

But here’s a flipside scenario for you: let’s say a marketing outfit manages to scrape the electoral register for names and addresses, feeds the resulting database into a service like Shapeways and instructs it to ship some dumb gimmick to every home on the list?

3D spam, folks. You heard it here first*.

[ * Well, I imagine Bruce Sterling beat me to it more than a few years back, and I’ll bet Sven Johnson has mentioned it more than once, not to mention countless others. “On the shoulders of giants”, and all that… ]

[image by oskay; object pictured actually made by CandyFab, a 3D printer that specialises in printing edible confections but which can work with other materials too.]

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3 Responses to “Print-on-demand in three dimensions – Shapeways beta launches”

  1. joris says:

    Paul,
    I have to say that 3D spam was something that until now we had not considered. I’m also not sure how a physical spam filter would work but I’m sure we could make one. cheers, Joris

  2. Michael says:

    There will never be 3D spam because of the most important word in that sentence: shipping. Spam only pays because it’s nearly free; spam you have to pay money to send is called “junk mail” and is really not the problem I used to think it is — and it’s only able to survive because bulk mail has special pricing.

    A 3D object has no such special pricing. Thus there will never be such spam — or, at best, there will be once, followed by some unemployment claims.

  3. John the Statistician says:

    I think Jamais himself might be the prior reference of choice on the spam angle: http://www.openthefuture.com/2006/10/the_nightmare_scenario.html

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