Sunday, November 10, 2013

3-D Printing

Sean Vitka has a meditation on Legos, Lego Mindstorms, and 3-D printing.

The specific industry that Lego’s Mindstorms products have most influenced, by my count, isn’t construction or even programming generally. The industry Mindstorms have most influenced is 3D printing. It seems to be a mechanical mecca for the kids who were passionate about their programmable Legos.

To many, 3D printing incorporates a wide swath of weird and extreme topics, from printed guns to piracy. But it’s more accurately associated with everything from superhero movies to medicine, if for no other reason than that’s where the industry’s future lies. This month, a father printed a prosthetic hand for his son instead of paying tens of thousands for one from a factory. He borrowed the printer from his son’s school. And he wasn’t the first. In other words, this industry is already making a ton of money and improving lives, right under our noses.

3D printing’s development depends on how well it’s able to reach the mainstream. That’s why it was big news this week when a 28-year-old from Canada created a printer for under $100. (Here’s a video showing how his process works.) To foster even more techno-utopian charm, CBC is reporting that he’s collected “more than $700,000 in crowdsourced funding.”

I don't know if he's right about the connection between Lego Mindstorms and 3-D printing, but the article caught my eye because a colleague and I have been teaching a short course on robotics for high school kids based on Lego Mindstorms for a few years.

About 3-D printing though - I figure it gets scary when a 3-D printer can print a more capable 3-D printer.