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?

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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

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