Great tech innovations have a way of morphing from gee whiz wonder to part of the daily landscape in the blink of a cyber eye. Life before smart phones and tablets? Barely imaginable. Life before the Internet? Really?
The current torrent of 3D printing breakthroughs is a little different. The gee whiz came with the realization that it could be done by almost anyone. Now it is about the riff and variation of what to print (houses? body parts? guns? tchotchkes?) and how to turn almost any material into a 3D “ink.”
What’s amazing is that it is not surprising a rat skeleton can be printed from a scanned live rat: We have come to expect the miraculous, though still marvel at the detail.
3D printing is a multi-disciplinary playground, where the outlandishly imaginative is applauded, experimentation encouraged and a sense of fun seems to permeate everything. Led, and perhaps liberated, by a joyous makers’ ethos that made a thriving Thingiverse possible, the 3D revolution is driven not by a tech elite, but rather the universal human need to create.
The tools and software for 3D printing are getting simpler and cheaper all the time. Comparatively inexpensive laser scanners designed for home use, such as Makerbot’s Digitizer and Indiegogo favorite, the Photon 3, are just months away from market. Paired with open source software compatible with Mac, PC and Linux, these scanners will uncork yet another round of inventive genius.
(T)he Photon isn’t just for 3D Printers, it’s the best tool for 3D animators, designers, hobbyists, prototypers, engineers, or anyone in the business of 3D creation. It’s perfect for reverse engineering, prototype development, duplicating objects, modifying existing products, archiving, generating content for video games, experimenting and so much more. Scan models, tweak them or combine them. The options are endless.
Biomimicry is the ultimate cheat sheet: mining eons-worth of evolution for a fast insights to design problems. Nothing iterates like nature.
Strictly speaking, the printed rat skeleton was copied rather than bio-mimicked, but it is hard not to consider the potential in light of two other recent breakthroughs: printing cell-like material complete with pores that provide nervous system functionality; and self-assembling materials inspired by the ways proteins fold, create using “4D” printing (time is the fourth “D”).
Each technology is remarkable in its own right. Imagine a surgeon printing a scan of a patient’s organs and bones before an operation, or a doctor printing “cells” for artificial tissue to treat a burn victim. And with materials that self-assemble, it’s a hop, skip and jump to thoughts of the Singularity.
What if you could combine them, using a Photon scanner and a Makerbot printer…at home?
What would Yoda, Star Wars sage and resident Thingiverse poster geek, say?
“Me real make! I live want to! Hmmmmmm.”
- The Yoda-speak Generator
- Yoda Thingiverse page
- Biomimicry 3.8 / Janine Benyus’ web reference
- Self-Assembly Lab / website
— J.A. Ginsburg / @TrackerNews