If you would see your father suspiciously bustling about dangerous things in the chimney, won’t you be alarmed? Me not, because I know that my dad is the Italian version of Mc Gyver, so I don’t bother that much. Anyway, I asked him what was going on. He promptly explained to me that every motorboat need a particular piece of metal that prevent the motor from being corroded by the flowing seawater. This thing is called the “sacrificial anode” (insert here your special comment about how sad the name is). It has to be changed every year or so and usually cost up to 80-100€. So, giving the fact that it is just a dumb piece of zinc, why not building it on your own? That is what my dad was doing, melting zinc in a casserole and molding it to get an anode shape. Eighty euro saved.
So I thought, wouldn’t be amazing if we could just design things that we need and then somehow create them? Of course. And wouldn’t be amazing if this was already a reality, uh? Yes indeed. I am talking about 3D printers and the huge potential that they offer. Does PIY ring a bell? Print it yourself.
Take this guy, his name is Jack and he is a teenager. He has a 3D printer, an Xbox Kinect and a broken bone. Instead of playing Call of Duty with the other hand, he decided to use his gears to build a better arm splint (or an exoskeletal cast as he named it) that looks absolutely cool and it is also fully ventilated, super light, shower friendly, hygienic, recyclable and stylish.
What more can you ask? You can ask everything and print it yourself, that is the point. I have already seen hundreds of projects, in every possible science field. From medicine to ninjas, from fashion to astronauts food. We are experiencing now what already happened with the PCs some decades ago. They were big and ugly and nobody seemed to know exactly what to do with them. But then some smart guys created Windows and some smarter guys created Super Mario, so everybody discovered that they needed a brand new PC.
Now this is happening again, with this new mind blowing toy. Let’s face it, even though they call it printer, it is a lot more useful than any common printer. Go and take a look at the amazing projects already there, and think that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Now there is a lot of work to do. 3D printers need to work faster and better, need some standards, need to be better looking and need also a cooler name. But please, Apple, don’t do the iPrint. You can do better. Try maybe with, I don’t know, the iPop? iPlex? iPlot? Yes, I really liked this last one. The iPlot.
And if I can be a little negative, there are some far less fun stuff to take care of. I fear that shortly after the mass-market commercialization someone will raise up the copyright issue. We still haven’t found a good way to solve this problem with the digital products, so it will hard with the physical thing too. Because even if piracy is a plague for many software houses and rights owner, at the same time copyrights laws are based on a model that doesn’t reflect the society of this millennium. Will I be considered a cyber criminal if I replicate a registered design? What if I make a copy of a Lego brick? Better being prepared, because I see another storm approaching us.
Photo by Jake Devill.