Reflections from 一 to 龠

Tchotchkes and 3D Printers – What Gives?

Tchotchkes and 3D Printers – What Gives?

Count me in: I am entranced by 3D printing. When future historians reflect upon the 21st century, the invention and consumerization of 3D printing (not to mention the still unforeseen ripples thereof) will, I’m convinced, be identified as an active ingredient in the formation of a new epoch, whatever that epoch might be. The nagging question I can’t stifle, though, is: if we are already beginning to witness some of the wonders of 3D printing, why do the manufacturers themselves insist on spotlighting all of the absolute crap their machines can make? At this past week’s Maker Faire in San Mateo (a joyous and long-anticipated first for me, all thanks to my wife), 3D printers were clearly among the headliners (alongside Arduino). I was hooked. I want one – desperately – even though I have no clue how I would use it if I had one will use it when I have one. I sought out their booths to see the machines in action, an even more so for inspiration. O manufacturers, show me something this machine can make – something of irresistible significance – such that I might no longer persist in this senseless denial of my undeniable need! My silent cry was not heeded, however. Instead, they seemed bent on cheapening my need, embarrassing me and my frivolity. Cluttering the booths of not one, nor a few, but all 3D printer manufacturers were tchotchkes, pure and simple – plastic trinkets so uninspiring that, were you to see them behind glass in a post-checkout Safeway gumball machine, you would hardly bother to dig around your coat pocket for a spare quarter. And when they weren’t printing glorified Monopoly hotel pieces, they were producing – layer by hypnotic layer  – elaborate plastic skulls that, while some have generously identified them with Mexican calavera, look more as if they were plucked from the nightstand of a Ren Fest stoner. Surely, if some nutso out there is printing guns, manufacturer’s themselves can offer us more inspired and positive creations?


Image: Makerbot [Wikicommons]

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