3d Printing and the Technology Trajectory

Technology Trajectory

Through some recent conversations, we queried about our thoughts on the 3d technologies going ahead. Why exactly do we see the importance that we do, and why does it drive us to do that do as much as possible to get as many folks started with 3d modelling and printing (events, workshops, showcases and more…)?

This made us recall a certain line of thinking and analogies we used to share in various conferences and maker meetups/events. In particular this slide, which some of you may have chanced upon:

Technology Trajectory

It boils down the fact that if one doesn’t keep up with getting started with the skills in 3d technologies, it will be dis-advantageous at best and dangerous at worst. Staying stagnant while the rest of the world pushes forward, and not have a part in advancing innovation.

It’s almost something which a friend remarked – “The way I see things going, if you’re not going to be equipping yourself with these skills, you may as well be technologically illiterate”

Scary, but perhaps fundamentally possible. Perhaps, it’s worth an exploratory dive to look backward to our past in an attempt to see how where we are now compares with some similar technological leaps we have experienced in the past:

The 1D Jump of the Chasm

Rewinding back a couple of decades to the birth of computers and the rise of word processing, this is what we term to be the 1d revolution. Here, the world sees the advent of word processing and the creation of the simple dot-matrix (and later bubblejet and other text printers). What this brought about was a jump from the very manual way of creating and sharing text from the humble typewriter to something which could help with the processing, editing and storing of text (1d) information.

The text printer also came along at the same time as a complementary invention to help materialize/make physical the information being shared. Bearing in mind that this was somewhat before the internet came to be, physical sharing of information was something which was needed quite a fair bit still.

Somewhere down the line, it became an unquestionably necessary skill to have and in this day, not to have it sets one into a very small and handicapped minority indeed.

The 2D Revolution

Fast forward a couple more years, with increasingly better technology and software, we start to see the progression of image manipulation technology. One of the main software which one thinks about with talking about image manipulation will undoubtedly be Photoshop (so much so that it has even become a verb of sorts, but we digress).

Around 10 years ago, to have skills in image editing and manipulation software may almost allow one to viewed with no small amount of admiration. Today, also with the additional technical advancement and proliferation in colour printing (2d) technology – it allows for a way for beautiful, colour images created to be physically recreated in meatspace.

Even in terms of video editing software and technology, we have see great leaps and also the numbers of people who are proficient in it. The levels of sophistication of video creation and editing (definitely spurred on also by sites like youTube) by just everyday individuals is mindblowing.

So in some sense, this were the genesis as well as catalyst of the usage and proliferation of the skills and tools to use 2d (image and video) technology.

The Age of 3D?

So where does this place us today?

We do stand at an exciting juncture (though with the rapid pace of technology the same could be said of many other things too!) where we get to see, play and experience what is essentially the rise of 3d production processes and tools in the hands of consumers. Now it would be disingenuous to say that 3d modelling tools are new fangled, since they have been around for decades. But never before has it been so widespread with many more consumer and beginner friendly options, with also the higher value proposition for individuals to be able to 3d print out their own designs. And yes, the tools are getting easier to use too and some on more intuitive platforms (think iPad apps)!

We do have, from the hardware side of things, the initial RepRap movement and community to thank for the initial and continued work into the development of home-based 3d printers. After which startups and businesses have started to look into this consumer 3d printing space with a lot more enthusiasm, pushing the development envelop and putting new innovative products out onto the market.

So this is our present day context – we have an increasing number of 3d modelling software which are getting easier for individuals to pick up on their own, and also the accessibility of increasingly affordable 3d printers.

Now are we and will we start to see the same kind of progression for 3d technologies as we did before in the previous 2 eras (if we could call them that?)

The Common Thread?

Trying to uncover commonalities across these three leaps of technologies may prove insightful. At least one thing they share are the face that they are each means of allowing for communication of ideas and presentation of thoughts, each more powerful, compelling and visceral than the last.. Further and in their various pairs, they allow for greater ease in editing upon, remixing and building upon one anothers’ ideas and concepts.

Once again, we do live in amazing time where we chart the progress of technology almost in the matter of days and hours. The toolkit of innovation and expression being never as powerful and widely available as they are. These are all out there and not picking them up would both be such a tremendous waste today, and such a precarious position to be in tomorrow. Wouldn’t you think? 🙂

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