The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

January 24, 2013

3D printers?

By Ian Faulkner, Staff Writer
SNAP

Friday, January 25, 2013 — The printing press changed literature forever. Private printers at home revolutionized the way we shop, communicate and conduct business. What will 3D printers change?

Additive manufacturing or 3D printing is the process of creating solid objects from digital rubrics. It involves taking tiny pieces of material (anything from alloys to thermoplastics) and adding them one on top of another until you get the desired item.

With technology progressing exponentially, these types of printers will soon be available, affordable, for  the public to use on a day to day basis.

3D printouts are useful for a number of reasons. If one wants a prototype of an experimntal design, one can print one off using a digital blueprint.

This type of low cost fabrication can help inventors create without tying up too much in the way of supplies.

I orginally heard about 3D printers from watching TV, some sort of special on space. Astronauts were taking these printers up into space with them so that they could fabricate what they need at a moment’s notice, rather than waiting for someone on Earth to fire up a rocket for a delivery.

So if you lose that monkey wrench out in space, never fear. They can make you another in a jiffy.

The fact that we have come so far in our abilities to communicate that we have machines that can make what only human hands could before is beyond amazing. This is the epitome of the transmission of knowledge.

Mass production is nothing new, but those were machines designed to make a specifc object or perform a certain task.

3D printers can make anything which has a digital blue-print.

Long gone are the days when there was no such thing as a “carbon copy.”

In this day and age, if you can create something once, it can be created again and again, as long as the object can be digitized.

To me 3D printers are akin to manifestation, the ability to create something from seemingly nothing.

How will this change society if every home has a 3D printer within it?

Will people still use stores as they do now?

It would seem pointless to go out and buy a plate, a tool or a toy when you could just print one up yourself.

Obviously people will still want handmade goods and still go out shopping traditionally, but there will be a decrease in the demand for goods if people can just manifest them at their homes.

I would have loved one of these machines when I was kid.

I loved making my own toys as a youngster, but perhaps that was just because I was always breaking them in one way or another.

Untold miles of duct tape went into the manufacturing of my homemade toys, a lot of which I had to build custom pieces.

I thought I was stretching my imagination by coming up with some of these designs, but what could I have been doing if i had a machine to fabricate some of these parts for me?

Then again, perhaps I wouldn’t have utilized my imagination at all since I would have everything I need with a 3D printer.

That’s the rub with all new technology.

It’s always useful and helps save time, but there’s always something lost in the process whether it be an artform, a creative outlet or employment.

There is a price to pay for the ease and comfort of modern civilization, usually a loss in the transmission of nuanced knowledge.

Are the ramifications for valuing machine-produced work over man-made items too great?

Only time will tell.