Discussion | Open Fabrication & The Future of 3-D Printing, Pt. 1

The New York Times did a recent article on how 3-D printers entering the home/DIY markets could affect copyrights on physical objects. Their thoughts on the future of home 3-D printing made for an interesting read and inspired us to delve further into the subject.

The basics of Open Fabrication, as outlined by this research paper by the Institute For The Future (IFTF) in Palo Alto, are as follows:

IFTF’s paper covers a lot of ground, setting the context for the future of open fabrication, touching upon the Software, Material and Platforms that could potentially change the face of manufacturing, as well as the communities surrounding this change. Its a lot to sum up in a pair of blog posts, so we thought we would simply touch upon some of the most interesting aspects.

One of the primary driving forces behind this look at the future of fabrication is the recent advancements in affordable desktop 3-D printers such as MakerBot’s Thing-o-Matic (left) and RepRap (right), as well as the rise of CAD repositories such as Thingiverse (below).

While the focus is certainly on the ways in which 3-D printing can grow, the paper remains fairly grounded in the fact that, even with the advancement we are likely to see in the next decade, open fabrication probably won’t replace current mass production methods. Rather, it stipulates that accessible 3-D printing will carve out a market for highly complex/customized products and ones that require smaller, measured production runs (10-10,000 is the “sweet spot” in their projections).

We are already seeing examples of these applications in the world of prosthetics (check out the work done by Bespoke Innovations) and airplane components (research currently being conducted by GE & the EADS labs). Another somewhat Kitschy, but interesting application was seen in Barcelona earlier this year with the Be Your Own Souvenir! installation.

In next week’s Pt. 2, you can expect a deeper look into the implications of the popularization of 3-D Printing, some interesting parallels with “Shanzhai” manufacturers, and where ideacious could eventually fit in.

Feel free to drop a comment below with your thoughts on the subject!

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About ideacious

ideacious enables the product ideas of designers and non-designers alike The process of getting an idea to market has always been long, expensive, uncertain, and intimidating. ideacious aims to solve these issues by bringing together creators, buyers, and service-providers within one low-risk, rewarding community.

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