Posted 16 March 2012
While IPad 3 has been out for 3 days and already sold out, 3D printers – printers capable of creating 3-dimensional objects, have been around since 2003 and have not yet made it to the top of our most wanted gadgets list. The idea 3D printers seems appealing, however is it one of those things that sound exciting in principle, but in reality offers no practical benefits for the likes of you and I?
First 3D Printed Bikini goes on sale
Firstly, even those keen to get the latest technology at any expense would think twice before investing in a 3d printer, which on average costs between £15,000 and £30,000 for mid-range models. The budget models, however, are available for comfortable £1,339. HP’s version designed for both office and home use will cost you just under £20,000 offering endless possibilities of printing little plastic copies of dragon figures to entertain the child in you. In the meantime several projects and companies making efforts to develop 3D printers suitable for desktop use at a price that most households can afford. Much of this work was driven by and targeted to DIY enthusiasts, academics, creatives and early adopter communities.
As usual new worries emerge with new technology being accessible to normal users who human and are all too prone to sin.
In one of its recent issues New Scientist published an article explaining dangers of 3D printing in the view of Pirate Bay launched a new category of its goodies: 3D File sharing.
With 3D Printing making considerable progress integrating more complex materials and shapes, could its combination with the likes of Pirate Bay open a door for a new wave of online piracy? – New Scientist asks. It seems it wasn’t that long ago that MP3 players where only a very niche technological object until channels such as Napster poplularised sharing of music and thus fueled the demand for MP3 players and Ipods. Perhaps 3D file sharing could do the same?
While music industry responded to illegal file sharing with digital rights management, trying (not always successfully) to prevent us from playing songs illegally from unauthorised devices, what can be done when it comes to sharing objects? It seems very little. First major issue seems to be around the copyright of 3D objects. If an object is available online for me to download, customise and print out, what can be done to stop me from doing so? While some are talking about creating and inserting invisible barcodes into the fabrics of the copyrighted objects or even watermarking them, others are less convinced and insist that instead of concentrating on the dangers of the new technology, companies should embrace it and realise the possibilities it offers. From rewarding customers with physical printable freebies, to inviting customers to participate into manufacturing process through 3D printing and editing, the possibilities that 3D printers offer for businesses and mortals are amazing.
While there is a lot of talk going on about prices on 3D printers dropping with their capabilities increasing, I cannot help but dream about getting my hands of one of those myself. When this dream does materialise be sure I will be rushing to generously share my 3D masterpieces as I am with my written ones.