BB8 Builder’s Club, is growing organization of 1800+ that is focused on building home-brewed BB8’s. As of “October the BB-8th”, they are now officially recognized by LucasFilm Ltd. Moreover, they have publicly released the STL files for 3D printing the parts. You can learn more, and even join, the BB8 Builder’s Club here.
Also, completely independent of the BB8 Builder’s Club, “part-time makergeek” Jean-René Bédard has developed his own BB8, as well. His droid is 3D-printed, remote-controlled, managed by Arduino circuits and stands on its own two wheels. You can read the full story here, at 3ders.org.
When I first started exploring 3D printing, I learned quickly that the key word describing this technology is “disruptive.” It’s an interesting word, and for someone who likes the comfort of familiarity and stability, it struck an odd chord with me.
Here’s what I think about when I hear “disruption”:
To throw into confusion or disorder.
To interrupt or impede the progress of.
To break apart or alter so as to prevent normal or expected functioning. (From The Free Dictionary)
I don’t like confusion and disorder. I get frustrated when people or events interfere with my progress toward a goal, and I get really, really frustrated when things don’t work as I expect they should.
If one picture frame in a room is tipped ¼”, my eye rushes to the picture, and I can’t rest until I set things “right.” I like to do the same things each morning when I get up, and that includes making my coffee the way I always have and putting it into a cup that works the way it has always worked. In fact, I still have a cup I liked and bought for myself forty-five years ago!
That, I guess, is why I’m not an inventor or a maker. I think inventing and making requires someone with a very special personality, someone who delights in surprises, who takes interruptions and detours as a spur to new questions, who doesn’t get frustrated but instead gets curious, who takes odd or unexpected functioning as opportunities to learn.
So I get that there’s a mindset associated with 3D printing technology that I can admire even though I don’t really share it. I am fascinated and inspired by the innovation I see everywhere, and I’m excited by the ways I expect I will benefit from this inventiveness despite myself.
Here are some other things I like about the 3D printing culture: sharing and collaboration, expressed in the open-source movement and via the internet. I’ve worked in a number of different environments and “industries,” and in all of them, the norm is to protect one’s own interests. Creating a new program or seeking donors? Keep your information to yourself — these are “trade secrets.” Academic discoveries? Mum’s the word. Did you create a new dish that people particularly like? Don’t share it!
This culture of secrecy is understandable but alien to me. It even seems counter-productive in some ways. I may not invent “things,” but I do invent good recipes from time to time. I know that my recipes are built on a foundation of those who came before me, and that’s even more the case now in these days of Pinterest. I also know that no one will make my recipe exactly like me. They may even make it better and share that improvement with me. And most of all, I doubt that anyone who eats in my cafe is going to think, oh, I have that recipe, I think I’ll go home and make it myself instead of eating here.
So I appreciate this 3D printing culture that highlights the benefits of open sharing. Erik de Bruijn of Ultimaker BV says, “It’s important to share what we know, not expecting something back but feeling confident that something will come back. The beauty of community is that we might get something back that we didn’t expect! Or something for which we didn’t even ask!”
Of course there are limits to open sharing. Inventors who choose should be able to protect their inventions. Often they invest resources in the hope of a return on their investment, which can’t happen if someone else goes to market with their idea. The hope of rewards can stimulate innovation and creativity. Still, an environment of sharing is a welcome counter-balance to the environment of heightened secrecy and security awareness that prevails these days.
Ways We Can All Benefit from the 3D Printing Revolution…Maybe Be Part of It
So here are some ways I believe I will benefit from 3D printing even though I am not myself an inventor. I believe we will all benefit:
As people invent and disrupt and explore and discover, many new tools, materials, procedures and “things” will result. One of these inventions or discoveries may be just the one we need to extend our life or the quality of our life. We’re on the verge of creating operating human organs from cells.
Innovations in 3D printing might make familiar but imperfect things and procedures work better. Dental implants are one of those items that occurs to me.
Vastly expanded opportunities for collaboration provided by the internet and idea-sharing on an open source platform will stimulate a different kind of cultural environment, at least in the world of 3D printing. But these kinds of things never stay put. This style of thinking and creating will become part of our general culture.
In Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, Chris Anderson wonders, “Can Makers make jobs?” pointing out that as output doubled over the past four decades, manufacturing employment fell by about 30 percent over the same period. For Anderson, the answer to that question is a resounding “yes,” as the Maker movement democratizes manufacturing. We will all benefit from this boost to the economy.
With this new “industrial revolution,” we are poised for an age of discovery. Indeed, we see examples of these discoveries tumbling in every day. People are excited and energized to tinker. It’s great to be alive in an era of creativity and inventiveness in human history. It will infect and stimulate us all. Even me. I can let that picture hang crookedly for awhile until I figure out what caused it to tip.
Here’s a story about how 3D printing can change us all, even those of us who aren’t big on being “disrupted” and don’t consider ourselves inventors.
Last week I picked up a post from 3dprint.com about a “3D Printed Ring Case for iPhone 6” that “gives users a better grip.” The phone case included a large ring on one side that would fit a belt clip.
I used to operate a cafe, and my hands were always buried in some kind of food. Anytime my phone rang or beeped, I had to pull my hands out of whatever I was working on, rinse and dry them, and begin a hunt for my phone. Once I found it, I had to unlock it and find the button to answer. By the time I got the message, it was usually too late. I really would have preferred not to stop at all and just let the phone signal away, but what if it was something really important? And I couldn’t tell if it was or wasn’t until I went through that procedure.
Many times I thought, I wish someone would invent a phone case I could wear as a pendant on a necklace or on my belt in a way easy to remove. I’d like to know who’s on that phone before I go through this whole procedure!
So yesterday I came across that article. Here was my idea, sleek and beautiful and very effective! So you know what? Maybe I’ve been acculturated already! Maybe I, too, am an inventor . . . I just don’t yet have the skills to move myself from idea to actual thing-in-my-hands.
But I can get there, especially as things become easier, which they surely will. Remember MS-DOS?
WHY we need to get 3D printing into every classroom
Let’s talk about why we should bring 3D printing into every classroom and why it must be a fundamental part of the education of the future, starting today. We can talk about these questions through a mechanism known to any teacher who has ever written a curriculum. We’ll consider some possible aims, goals and objectives of 3D printing in the classroom.
In 3D printing in every classroom Part I, we looked at two paths to bringing 3D printing into schools. In our American culture, we will most likely take the second approach, what I call, “Bottoms Up.” We will generate enough excitement on a national level to stimulate local areas to plan for and fund 3D printing in their schools.
That means for 3D printing in every classroom to become a reality, school districts must think about how this transformative technology can most effectively and comprehensively become part of the project of local education.
For an investment in 3D printing to be effective, planning must include not only amazing projects but a clear idea about why those projects are an essential part of an education in our modern world. What are our district-wide aims, goals and measureable objectives?
Here are some ideas as we begin to lay out worthwhile aims and goals of a program to bring 3D printing into classrooms.
In a provocative book published in the 70s, Growing Up Suburban, Edward A. Wynne argues that the “total environment of the suburban youth—the school, the community, the family, and the workplace—is in need of drastic reform.” Specifically he makes the case that young people in suburban homes are isolated from real world responsibilities, challenges and problem solving. This isolation contributes to alienation and anti-social behaviors.
During my own teacher education, this book had a tremendous impact on me. I believe that 3D printing, as a transformative and disruptive technology, is the right catalyst for generating the profound changes that need to happen in our communities. It can and does provide young people with ways to participate meaningfully in real life challenges and problem solving.
Arecent presentation by Avi Reichental of 3D Systems contributes another dimension to shaping an “aim” for 3D printing in education.
In a world where we will have a “ubiquitous 3D lifestyle that will permeate every aspect of our lives,” we aim:
To prepare students to live in and participate effectively and meaningfully in a world transformed by 3D printing.
“Although the new technology that is fueling the maker movement gets a lot of attention, more important are the values, dispositions and skills that making fosters, such as creativity, imagination, problem-solving, perseverance, self-efficacy, teamwork, and ‘hard fun.’
“As Steve Jobs observed, describing the impact that having access to a Heathkit (a do-it-yourself electronics kit) had on him, “Things became much more clear that they were the results of human creation not these magical things that just appeared in one’s environment that one had no knowledge of their interiors. It gave a tremendous level of self-confidence that through exploration and learning one could understand seemingly very complex things in one’s environment.”
In an earlier post in this blog Jeremy Simon showed the power for a young person of having an idea and within hours holding it in his or her hand: “He [a ten year old] had an idea, sketched it out, and then we brought that idea into physical form – from his head to the real world in just a few hours.”
Following are goals that suggest themselves from the White House post and the powerful experience of one child that Jeremy Simon described.
Some goals of bringing 3D printing into our classrooms might be:
To foster the values, dispositions and skills of creativity, imagination, problem-solving, perseverance, self-efficacy, teamwork and fun.
To inspire the self-confidence that comes from exploration and understanding seemingly complex things in one’s environment.
To enable the deep understanding and problem-solving ability that results from seeing abstract ideas actualized within an age-appropriately meaningful time frame.
Finally, here are a few measurable objectives, helped by a post from Stratasys. Students will:
Develop familiarity with essential tools they will require to build the future.
Be exposed to the same cutting-edge technologies they will encounter in their careers.
We’d like to hear your thoughts about this aim and these goals and objectives.
Can you fill out the objectives? For example, can you list specific tools students will need to build the future? Specific technologies? The specifics of howthinking, designing and making differ from the way we think, design and make now? What real-world problem solving skills are required as we enter a 3D printing era?
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Coming up: 3D Printing in Every Classroom, Part III.
I hear the word “transformative” a lot these days. Last week I had an opportunity to understand in a deeper way exactly what it means to talk about a “transformative technology”.
Jeremy was invited to represent e-NABLE at a public program on 3D printing sponsored by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago in partnership with U&I Labs. Jeremy asked if I would like to join him to get a close-up look at some things going on in the field.
David Mosena, President and CEO of the Museum of Science and Industry, who introduced the keynote speaker, describes the mission of the Museum as “creating transformative experiences that get people excited about the world around them…”
There’s that word “transformative” again. And yes, a public program on 3D printing is a perfect expression of that mission. The common theme throughout the program was that 3D printing is entering every sector of our economy and lifestyle. It will transform not only the things that surround us and the way we produce them but our way of thinking about them and our world.
3D Printing: redesigning creativity?
After having a chance to meet and talk with people at the forefront of 3D printing projects in many fields of endeavor from e-NABLE’sprosthetics to medicine to robotics to sustainability and more, we enjoyed a presentation from Avi Reichental, President, CEO and Director of 3D Systems, Faculty Chair of Digital Fabrication at Singularity University and a Member of the XPRIZE Foundation innovation board.
Avi focused first on the democratization of manufacturing that 3D printing allows, pointing out the bi-directionality of that process: even as 3D printing creates a new future for us, it returns us to the roots and heritage from which we came.
Those roots ante-date the industrial revolution, going back to a time when everyone was a craftsman. What we lost in the mass production of the industrial revolution is craftsmanship and artisanship. 3D printing opens a door to a return to that as it decentralizes and democratizes industry. Our new craftsmen and artisans are the 3D makers and designers.
This vision is one that began with Chuck Hull of 3D Systems 33 years ago. His idea was to return Detroit to competitiveness as it lost market shares to the Japanese. Chuck had the idea he could work smaller and get to market faster.
This idea of Chuck’s has become a “disruptive exponential technology” that touches everything: shoes, cars, mobile devices, fashion, jet engines, medicine and food to name a few things. It is beginning to influence how we learn, how we teach, how we express ourselves and how we design.
And today we are only at the beginning of this journey! It is a journey that will change our ideas of what is possible as it transforms and disrupts the way we design and manufacture. As recently as 10 or 11 years ago, it wasn’t obvious this would all be possible. Now it is clear that it is. We have an opportunity to mainstream technology through passionate and realistic removal of friction points.
The journey will be shaped by a few trends and ideas. Within the field, the most important catalyst for progress is materials science. Today we have 120 materials from 3D Systems alone with which to print – plastics, nylon, rubber-like materials, ferrous and non-ferrous alloys.
At first we thought the “holy grail” of 3D printing would be mass customization. Now it’s clear the more important opportunity is that we can rethink designs with a complexity and functionality that weren’t possible before. Why? Because complexity and enhanced functionality is free. We no longer have to conform to the requirements of mass production.
Here are just a few benefits of the trends and new ideas emerging from the industry:
There isn’t as much waste, and everything is faster and less expensive.
Waste can be turned into beautiful objects.
It is possible to “get it right” the first time on big projects that cost a lot of money by using 3D modeling.
Manufacturing can supply a “need it now” and “fit for me” demand.
In medicine, errors are reduced and outcomes improved because of models and reality simulators that allow rehearsals.
Kids in classrooms can hold their ideas in their hands.
We are headed toward a ubiquitous 3D lifestyle that will permeate every aspect of our lives. The question isn’t should we get a 3D printer in our home but what room in our home will house the 3D printer!
Yes, there are unintended consequences. One that stands out is the possibility of printing 3D guns. With the democratization of digital craftsmanship, everyone can make things, not just designers and craftsmen. There are questions that must be answered along the way, and there will surely be regulations.
Currently technology and 3D printing are moving at exponential speeds. Regulatory and enforcement platforms are not moving at the same speed. And yet – should we restrict the flow because some misuse technology? We cannot regulate the human condition. We can just begin to educate people in charge of education and law enforcement.
And there are also unimagined consequences as we continue to transform and disrupt the way we think, design and make things. These are the things that are exciting.
Several organizations got a special mention for their work at this point, and e-NABLE was one!
3D Q&A: what are people asking?
Here are some of the questions asked by the audience, and answers from Avi Reichental:
Do you see 3D printing becoming ubiquitous? Yes, as much as the tablet or smart phones in a few years. The possibilities are unlimited as we get away from the need for a supply chain. For the first time in more than a century, we have tools that will allow anyone to start a business.
Will 3D printing replace traditional manufacturing and the jobs associated with it? No. Instead I expect a convergence of additive and subtractive technologies in the same box, a hybridization. I do think we will have to deal with issues of job learning in a massive way…with retraining and repositioning and learning new skills and developing new muscles.
What are some issues you see developing in the regulatory process? We can now do physical photography and 3D scanning for 100s of dollars, so there are questions about the value of an original design. Who owns it? What constitutes counterfeiting? Who can monetize a project? Who is entitled to royalties and revenue sharing arrangements? No one knows. What’s the value of a 20 year patent when technology doubles every year exponentially? These things will probably be tested quickly.
How does energy consumption for traditional manufacturing compare to 3D manufacturing? Studies show up to 40% net benefit in additive manufacturing vs. traditional manufacturing. More studies are needed.
Will one or two technologies begin to dominate? No. There are different machines for different purposes. We can’t look at it as a single crank engine but rather as a toolbox.
Where will the next generation of innovation come from? Each of us has access and tools so can develop digital literacy. 3D print the magic box that your own ideas jump out of: a collaborative device, a creative device, a chance to play and learn, to become an artist or a scientist or maker – create a sandbox of creativity and personalization, that’s the biggest opportunity!
The best question and response of the evening was from an 11 year old young man. He asked, ”What can 3D printing do for me that I can use?”
The answer? Effectively it was: “Ask not what 3D printing can do for you but what you can do to transform the world with 3D printing.”
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