3D Printing…

One afternoon, I was walking along Clerkenwell Road and came across a curious window display at iMakr. Aren’t they modelled with a 3D printer?



They are less than four inches high and the detailing on them were intricate and subtle.

Some may recall the controversy surrounding a 3D printed model gun, The Liberator. The Victoria & Albert Museum acquired the gun and displayed it as part of the London Design Festival last September. If I remembered it correctly, the V&A was in a tug of war with the U.S authorities regarding the exporting licence and weren’t sure if it could be resolved in time.

I am not at all insightful of 3D printing technology therefore may sound hopelessly childish, but a solid & physical “thing” can be plotted out by a computer programme on the spot, sounds fantastical and mind-boggling. It reminds me The Diamond Age, a science fiction novel by Neal Stephenson. It’s not nanotechnology, I know. But it sounds amazing all the same.
Currently, the actual technology has already advanced enough to blur the boundary between what is physical or virtual. Especially in the case of the aforementioned gun, some U.S politicians raised concerns regarding the possible misuse of the technology. The practicability of hi-tech gunsmithing in anyone’s backyard sounds no longer a farcical matter, this particular technology has waded into the murky territory of ethical debate.
One possible application of the technology I personally want is a service outlet which can print out broken parts of household appliances on the spot. Wouldn’t it help eliminating the wasteful use of materials, time and space? In the past, I had more than a few things which had to be thrown away only because small parts were damaged and no replacements were available. This 3D technology may help in steering our modern lifestyle, which is largely based on consumption, towards a more thrifty and conserving way of living. No more guilt-ridden trips to Smugglers Way skip. Let’s print the part and mend!

Unlike the Matter Compiler in The Diamond Age, which assembles molecules and constructs whole objects, a 3D printer won’t be churning out anything in such a manner. Still, it is an exciting new technology and has every possibility to change our everyday life for the better. I am very much open-minded and look forward to being more mind-boggled by future technology…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

8 thoughts on “3D Printing…

  1. Kin is very, very into 3D printing, for a lot of the same reasons that you are; how simple it would be to replace tiny things like broken catches on battery covers, or cracked panels.

    Environmentally it’s also very interesting, as people have developed small machines to produce the printing filament out of plastic bottles (and out of 3D printed materials!). I doubt the recycling loop is infinite, but isn’t it a wonderful area? I’m so glad Kin keeps us both informed.

    • I was very excited when I realised the tiny figures in the window were the result of 3D printing! They weren’t anything like museum pieces but I had seen nothing like it & were very intriguing. As any new technology, such as GM crops or stem-cell technology, 3D printing has opened a new debate – how it should be employed. The prospect of its future is exciting as well as frightening. Would you let me know how it is used in Japan? Are they more advanced?

      • I don’t know much about the area; Kin is the creative in our family! But as far as I’m aware, North America is currently where the most interesting things are happening. That’s where the most innovative companies are working, although some extremely interesting work is being done by individuals all over the world. Since I normally work in Health, one of my favourite areas in the world of 3D printing is in customisable prosthetics and medical supplies, particularly in parts of the world that have little money; all they need is plastic bottles!

        Since you’re more of a creative like Kin, you might enjoy this site: http://www.thingiverse.com/ where people share their own designs.

        A lot of the stuff is dreadful garbage, naturally, but there are some truly beautiful and also truly useful work going on.

      • There must be a lot of useful inventions which can’t be available to us because the demands are very specific and the markets are too small to warrant a full scale production. And as you say, 3D printing is a definite saviour for it.
        There was an interesting news a few days ago. The police in Manchester arrested a guy with a 3D printer and printed plastic parts resembling a trigger of the gun. Later, the police admitted it was a printer head, not a trigger. And we all shared a nervous laugh. But the episode has also proved that there is a definite concern regarding the availability & application of this exciting technology. It’s so intriguing, isn’t it?

      • It looks very interesting!
        Instead of curving out an object out of the existing mass, it is really printing (I mean creating an object from nothing), isn’t it? So clever! I wish if I were a computer wizard. I may be able to 3D-print my knitwear so I can save my fingers (^-^;)

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