The Universe of 3D Possibility

Brenda Cooper @ 22-09-2010

Don’t forget that for the rest of this year, I’m revisiting topics, updating research, and chatting about possibilities.  I hope you’ll add to the discussion.  So, here goes:

There’s been a lot of 3D print in the news lately.  There’s some cool things that are now easy to do – you can upload your designs at i.materialise.com (although I have to say, the “i” in front of EVERYTHING is as bad as the “.COM” behind every business’s name just before the .com bubble bursting.  But I digress.  i.materialise is catchy.  I’m personally waiting for i.teleport). After you upload and pay, your new object is printed and mailed to you. You can drop by Shapeways.com for the same service.  If you don’t feel like making your own designs, you can buy them from other people.  I like the math art piece Interlocked Moebius.

So that’s how I decided to re-visit 3D printing – just in time for Christmas if you start planning now!    I bet you could be the first in your family to design a Christmas ornament and have it printed. I might even have to try that this year… if I can find time.  It sounds like math is involved. Continue reading “The Universe of 3D Possibility”


Desktop economic disruption: personal portable 3D printer

Paul Raven @ 06-09-2010

Via Bruce Sterling, who rightly points out that at just US$1500, this thing’s cheap enough to end up in favelas worldwide; it’s made and sold by these people.

I can almost hear the street rubbing its hands together in anticipation of finding its own uses for this thing…


Bacterial biker jackets and after-market parts for people

Paul Raven @ 12-07-2010

This year seems like it’ll be the one where the mainstream starts talking about custom-made replacement organs as something more than science fiction. A few weeks back we heard about the rat who got a new set of lab-grown lungs; this week, Wired is running a photo-essay on bioprinting that’s a must-see for anyone who wants to be able to write a plausible description of the working environment of a contemporary Frankenstein.

Bioreactor - image credited to Dave Bullock/Wired.com

Meanwhile [via BoingBoing] Ecouterre reports on UK-based designer Suzanne Lee, who’s been using bacteria to grow an entire range of clothing from a rather mundane starting point – sweetened green tea. The end results are made entirely of cellulose, though they look (to me at least) like the skin of something that still slinks through radiation-soaked cities long after the posthumans abandoned Earth for the new terrain at the top of the gravity well…

Bio-couture jacket by Suzanne Lee

Organic ain’t yer only option, though, no sir. 3D printing means one-off custom designs of mechanical prosthetic limb can be made for amputees or other folk with different levels of physical ability… and not just for us longpigs, either, as Oscar the cyborg cat ably demonstrates. 3D printing is still an unevenly distributed piece of the future, of course, but it’s spreading fast; Ponoko have just set up their first 3D print hub here in the UK, and if they can afford to do that in the current economic climate, the business model must have something going for it, right?

It’s interesting to see the organic and inorganic racing along in parallel like this; it doesn’t take a genius to see the possibilities of the two streams converging somewhere down the line, though I’d guess that’s a good few decades off from the present day. What’s interesting to me about these phenomena is the way they seem to be an end-game expression of the desire for individuality and customisation; at the moment, price will keep all but those with a serious need for these products out of the market, but as prices fall, everything will become bespoke, unique, a one-off. Which is kind of ironic if you think about it: through the total ubiquity of mechanised manufacture, we’re actually putting an end to mass production.


Manufacturing2.0 – Ponoko’s personal manufacturing community

Paul Raven @ 19-09-2007

When Bruce Sterling spots something and considers it worthy of note, you can assume he knows what he’s on about – especially if it’s connected to his spimes idea.

But it doesn’t take a genius to see the huge disruptive potential of the "personal manufacturing network" business model behind Ponoko. I’ll simply quote their site, because I couldn’t put it more succinctly than this:

"Ponoko is the world’s first personal manufacturing platform. It’s the online space for a community of creators and consumers to use a global network of digital manufacturing hardware to co-create, make and trade individualized product ideas on demand.

The ponoko.com marketplace connects creators, consumers, digital manufacturing hardware and service providers to promote, make and trade products on Ponoko and social networking websites."

Poke around the site, and think about it. One of the few things I’ve seen recently where the tired cliche "this could change everything" really does apply.

[tags]fabbing, design, manufacture, social networking, spimes[/tags]