Bored of “3D Printers”

12 September 2011

I’m really bored of the term “3D printer”.

It’s begun to make me squirm when I hear it. For many such devices, it’s a reasonable explanation of the process – layers of extruded material “printed”, a layer at time, building an object up from nothing.

My problem is with the “3D” part of it. Or rather: the idea that a “3D printer” prints… 3Ds? I read an article explaining the technology in a mainstream newspaper; it explained that at the end of the process, you’d remove your “3D artefact” from the machine.

Or, you know, object. Thing. Or even call it by the name of what you’ve printed: “when the printer finished, I removed my ashtray/cog/bottle opener/toy.”

I’ve just finished Charlie Stross’ Rule 34, which was fun. One of my favourite pieces of futurethinking in it was his exploration of the domestication of “fabbers”. They’re not things owned only by geeks and early adopters; Stross’ fabbers are bought in John Lewis, made by mainstream companies. Of course, like Nespresso machines or inkjet printers, they’re artificially hobbled to only use ‘official’ feedstock, and perhaps even to not make certain plans (ie, forcing you into a “thing store” to download official plans). So the opportunity for hackers are to take the off-the-shelf machines and rewire them to use illicit feedstock, to make dangerous things. But the fabber is very much just like a coffee machine in this universe, and I liked some of his explorations of what it was like to have an off-the-shelf object printer in the house.

A name like “object printer” or “thing printer” feels so much more honest and less clumsy. And: eventually we’re going to get over the magic of the “3D” part of the printing, and instead just focus on the variety of things we can get out, the varieties of materials we can print in, the affordability of such devices. The 3Dness will be taken as given.

(If you pushed me, and I had to coin a neologism, though, I’d choose artefactory.)

  • "All Hockney's work and thought is dedicated to the proposition that there is always more to see in the world around us. Art is a way—you might say a set of technologies—for making images, preserving them in time, and also for showing us things we aren't normally aware of. Those might include gods, dreams, and myths, but also hedgerows." Hockney continues to be marvellous.


11 September 2011

Mousehole Timelapse from Tom Armitage on Vimeo.

Been away from a week, in a little cottage with a view of this harbour. Turns out my homebrew intervalometer works pretty well – although it’s going to need more robust packaging in future.

  • Lots of good analysis and tips in here. It's very much not a selection of things to do, more a selection of issues noticed and ways to fix them – many of which are contradictory.
  • "A silly version of postmodernism would suggest that contemporary scientific claims are identically as valid as those made in the dark ages, whereas really they are valid in different ways. Whereas a smart critique of rationalism (and of the Dawkinsesque pastiche of Enlightenment) is one which recognises the evolutionary nature of science, capitalism, culture, such that we cannot throw off our current mindset, culture or language, but nor are we imprisoned in it. We recognise the present as constitutive of who we are, but also as a single moment in an unfolding drama with no apparent conclusion." Cracking writing from Will – and some good stuff linked from this.