3D printing: does the revolution look vintage already?

Nice overview of 3D-printing:

Hat tip to Bruce Sterling on Beyond the Beyond. I liked his comment:

Really makes one anticipate 3d printing in 2022, when all this contemporary stuff looks charmingly crude and tentative. Very “early teens.”

So does our revolution look vintage now already? More about all this during the MetaMeets conference (November 30, December 1, ‘s-Hertogenbosch,The Netherlands): “The Art of Creation : Virtuality meets Reality”. If there really is a Makers revolution going on, how can we support that and profit from it in virtual environments?

The New Industrial Revolution – the New Satanic Mills?

So I’m reading Cory Doctorow’s Makers, but there is also that other Makers book – inspired by Doctorow – in which Chris Anderson tells us about a New Industrial Revolution. Here is a video posted on TechCrunch.

What we’re seeing here with the third industrial revolution is the combination of technology and manufacturing, so Anderson explains. “It’s the computer meets manufacturing, and it’s at everybody’s desktop.”
But then again, being a slightly pessimistic European, there’s also the dark side: rapid prototyping, smooth international collaboration by individuals on what formerly needed impressive institutions also facilitates the production of weapons of mass destruction. The classical Industrial Revolution got a rather bad press (the ‘Satanic Mills’) – but the bio- and hardware hacking labs could churn out another kind of satanic stuff. The empowerment of the individual is not necessarily a story with a happy ending – but then again, we don’t have any choice but try to deal with it, to grasp the opportunities and avoid the horror.

New World Notes not convinced about 3D-printing

“No doubt, it’s going to be an important tool for hobbyists and designers, and for assorted applications here and there, but Wired wants to convince us it’s going to be more than that. ”

There, Wagner James Au, the virtual worlds expert and New World Notes blogger, said it: he’s not convinced 3D printing will be Big. 

In the discussion thread I asked whether SecondLife, Cloud Party, OpenSim or other open ended environments will be particularly useful in collaborating and designing prototypes for 3D-printing. Or will it just be one of many possibilities to collaborate on 3D designs for printing, and not necessarily the most obvious one?

His answer:

Quite likely, I mentioned that possibility in my book — but those platforms have less than 1M people, and only a small percent of the population actively engages in 3D prototyping.

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via Diigo http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2012/10/3d-printing-chris-anderson-wired.html#comments

Download, print, fire: gun rights initiative harnesses 3D technology | guardian.co.uk

“Project aims to let anyone print a gun in their own home, raising new concerns about the legality of homemade firearms”

There really was no reason to believe people would only use this technology to print cute toys and cool components for race bikes.
via Diigo http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/26/3d-printing-guns-legal-issues-us-law

3D printing changes the world

These last few days I read some articles about 3D printing in major mainstream publications. Talking about ‘mixed realities’, 3D printing fascinates me as it seems to make it so easy to translate digital constructs into physical ones, or physical ones (through scanning) into digital ones and than back into physical ones.

Izabella Kaminska at FT.com/alphaville points out that in the future manufacturing will be relocated to the demand or resource point. She concludes her post about the ‘3D printing: rise of the machines‘:

Low-cost production techniques could soon become so advanced and so low cost — thanks to developments like 3D printing — that even the tiniest salaries in Africa will not make it worthwhile to employ human beings at all.

Kaminska also posted about ‘how technology is killing the Asian growth miracle‘:

We’ve noted on more than one occasion that economists may be missing a trick when it comes to how technology is changing the global economy. More so, that developments like 3D printing, could even pose a black-swan risk for Asia in their own right.

Read also Vivek Wadhwa in Foreign Policy, who claims that the future of manufacturing is in America, not China – 3D printing being one of the driving forces for this to happen.

At The Economist, the Babbage column says that 3D printing could very well become the PC all over again:

WHAT could well be the next great technological disruption is fermenting away, out of sight, in small workshops, college labs, garages and basements. Tinkerers with machines that turn binary digits into molecules are pioneering a whole new way of making things—one that could well rewrite the rules of manufacturing in much the same way as the PC trashed the traditional world of computing.

But the column warns these tinkerers, quoting Michael Weinberg, a staff lawyer at Public Knowledge (advocacy group in Washington, DC):

There will be a time when impacted legacy industries [will] demand some sort of DMCA for 3D printing,” says Mr Weinberg. If the tinkerers wait until that day, it will be too late.

One of the issue to consider is what role virtual environments can play in facilitating 3D-printing and international collaboration in that sector. I’m sure that will be one of the topics at the upcoming MetaMeets conference in the Netherlands.

3D printing, Second Life and unemployment: how the blending of realities rips society apart

Sometimes the seemingly random combination of blog posts makes me think. For instance, watch this introductory video about 3D-printing, which I found on the financial blog Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis:

In the blog post you’ll find other great links about 3D printing.

Now switch to some very important question here in this TechCrunch post by Jon Bischke: the growing divide between Silicon Valley and unemployed America. Globalization and technology are exhilarating, but many people are being left behind. Another aspect not mentioned in the article (maybe more relevant for Europe): also national politics is very often being left behind in this revolution. While political leaders still want to control things on a national or regional level, often ignoring the technological changes, they contribute to ever bigger crisis situations rather than solving them.

Yes, we can marvel about the wonderful opportunities the technological revolution is bringing us. Just imagine the possibility of collaboratively working on 3D-objects, discussing them in virtual environments (Second Life now working hard on enabling mesh-import), turning those 3D digital objects into physical prototypes via 3D printing, wherever you want on the planet, and eventually convincing partners to start production – wherever on the planet.

All of which no longer requires huge amounts of capital. It’s about imagination, creativity, isn’t it? Of course, many people lack the knowledge and skills to actually explore those opportunities, but then again, the internetz make it easier and cheaper than ever to acquire those skills…

Or maybe not so. Using the internet to learn constantly, to find out about opportunities, requires a media literacy which is not self-evident. Not only the unemployed construction worker may lack this basic skill, also the graduate who supposedly is a digital native but never really made it beyond the Facebook-is-only-for-friends level of social media practice.

So we’re living in dangerous times. Technology and globalization are ripping the old structures apart. People get angry and upset about their leaders, even about society in general. We need schools and universities to teach people how to use the possibilities of this globalized internet age – because we’re getting into the phase where we not only manipulate bits and bytes as we like, but also atoms. And we do this by collaborating on a truly global scale, far beyond the reach of local governments.

In this new phase the virtual and the physical blend. 3D printing allows us to make that transition. Virtual money such as Bitcoins and CS are another interesting development. Philip Rosedale is a very visionary guy. After founding Second Life he’s now exploring the possibilities of location-based exchange en virtual currencies in the Bay area – using his virtual world knowledge and experience in the physical neighborhoods of his city. Mixed realities indeed, as location-based social networks, augmented reality, alternate reality games are steadily developing in new dimensions of our daily environments.

We have to do more than just hoping the education system will take care of it. We’ll have to teach and learn on a grassroots-level. Virtual environments can be extremely useful in this regard, but we should not neglect stuff such as Google+, or Facebook-groups not to mention meet-ups in what was once considered ‘meatspace’ but which is now a blended reality.