The reason it’s neat is that it radically simplifies previous rostock designs by using Openbeam components… who’s kickstarter thing I funded a while back, though I’m not sure if it got past the goalposts.
Openbeams are quite cool – small t-slot extruded aluminium that uses standard M6 bolts instead of expensoid custom-made parts that normal t-slots use… which from NZ is really cool because it means you don’t have to wait fucking weeks for overseas suppliers to deliver. It’s specially designed so printed circuit boards (or laser-cut acrylic) neatly fits into the slots.
It’s actually cheaper (I think) that standard square-section aluminium… but of course being in NZ means there’s huge postage whacked on top of that. This country kindof sucks in a lot of ways. It’s got the highest housing costs in the OECD as well. And the internet is fucking slow. And it’s run by dickheads.
So instead of using two rods, it uses one… made out of the same stuff as the rest of it is made out of… with the legoy effect inherent in T-Slot… and lo… a reprap.
Thing is though, it’s a reprap made almost entirely out of vitamin parts… which I guess repraps always kindof were. I mean it’s an interesting intellectual exercise making a machine that makes ALL of it’s own parts – but it’s kindof analagous to wasps vs birds… wasps build nests by chewing stuff up, and extruding it out of their mouths… in a fashion not dissimilar to extruded/additive 3D printing; Birds just say “fuck it, I’m going to use some twigs”.
They take stuff that’s off the industrial supply-chain in other words… and have designs that can route around local/temporal shortages. I think there’s more vitality in the idea of “routing around any obstacle, but using whatever’s available” than “aiming towards eliminating all dependencies”.
I mean really… if that really is for real, that is really, really quite something. That could put the entire reprap project forward by several generations… by entire dimensions. Depending on whether or not it’s possible to do this on a reprap.
And that’s the second thing in so many days to come out of Disney, of all places… it’s a bit like Yahoo back in the mid-2000s… when suddenly, a company that has fundamentally retarded DNA, starts hiring talent, and letting it do what it wants… before the bad DNA reimposes itself and the whole thing becomes hide-bound and sclerotic again, with all the sub-projects dying on the vine. This will happen to Apple soon enough. Apple is the last “great hope” of the copy-monopoly industries, and although it’s the richest corporation on the planet, it’s starting to fuck up already. Just watch as the “money men” drift up the hierarchy. It’ll be the new Microsoft inside 10 years.
I mean really – my 60 year old aunties have iPads… they’re the ones who bought hippie-wigs from woolworths at the end of Withnail&I, and now they’ve got iPads… and “the cool kids”? Are you kidding me? The ones that sleep outside Apple shops to be the first to buy whatever the new thing is? They’re fucking sheep. They’re a joke. The real cool kids all use Linux now. It’s not about “looking good”, it’s about not being controlled. All the shiny in the world doesn’t alter the fundamentally infantalising relationship between Apple and its flock.
Baaaaa… you see all those people in blue shirts? The ones who look like they really like you? They don’t. They’re paid to clap. They’re serving-staff, paid to be your friend… so long as you keep buying shiny things with patented curved corners.
Another video of the plastic stuff
In which the guy appears to be demonstrating a plastic paper-towel tube containing some absynth. He’s a glass 1/2 full kindof a guy. Anyone in sales has to be. Anyone who demonstrates anything, and starts with the words “What If…”, immediately looses me. That’s how people in movie-trailers talk… to an audience who they apparently think is about 12.
Still… the stuff that Disney has done with it is world-changing… so long as people other than Disney are able to work with it. Free of monopoly rents…. not that monopoly rents are imposable with 3D Printing… and therein lies the rub… that is why the fascist I talked about a couple of posts ago wanted to put some sort of tracking/DRM into stepper-motors. Into the DNA.
The War On Open Computing is a fight for the purity of its DNA… and it’s not some grand philosophical notion. It’s a simple flip of a switch in the mind of the designer. Do you control it, or does someone else?
So it’s 1980 again – a cliche to say it now: “3D Printing is at a state now, that computers were in the 80s”… and like the 80s, there are definitive moments of ho-hum. I think I own one now… a 3D Printer I mean… or at least own part of a company that owns one… am I impressed? Not especially… but then I wrote the hype.
So where are our arses at? It seems like time for a re-cap. Take stock etc.
I was just down at a small-town technology fair in NZ, and by Christ, wasn’t that boring? Lots of big-screen TVs and people selling… what? Dunno. That had lots of posters and “Brand” etc – but I couldn’t really tell what any of them actually did. Something to do with communications I imagine. There were two 3D Printers… one from a local school-stall, one from the company that sold it to the local school. They were both printing things that were of precisely zero use to anyone, but which look quite impressive nonetheless. It must have seemed the same with computers in the 1980s – although I do remember becoming addicted to games, almost instantly.
So… 21st of July, Year of Our Lord, 2012…. this is the state of play:
1) two months ago, there was a veritable flood (ok, a flotilla) of crowd-funded 3D printers on Kickstarter… there are now two on Indiegogo… but the flotilla of printers has been replaced by a flotilla of building blocks for The Internet Of Things… sensors for smartphones; building-blocks etc… the flow of printer-information has moved elsewhere.
This is a variant that I’ve been cheering on for a while now… not sure why. The first one I saw was Festo’s. I have a feeling that these things could be combined with sensors… eg: that new Leap machine… so it “knows where it is” rather than doing everything blind. I have a feeling that this might allow for printer-heads with a lot more freedom of movement… ie: not trapped within a Cartesian box.
This is not quite “plug and play”… (like a lot of the other kickstarter “internet of things” stuff is… but it’s getting there.
I think true plug-and-play with this sort of thing will need to be some sort of genetic algorithm… so a brain that uses a LEAP (or similar) to “see where it is” can figure out it’s own hand-to-eye coordination. Just leave it running overnight and when you come back, it will be able to control any set of motors with micron-levels of precision. Maybe.
See also, breakout-boards for iPods/iPhones and GoPro cameras
Which are on a version of Etsy just for electronics (via: Ponoko)
Which looks very 21stC… but we still haven’t earned the right to call ourselves “21stC yet”. Imagine you’re back in 1912… calling yourself “20th Century”… well, fuck me, you’re in for a fright. Hopefully in 2012, we’re not sailing into waters quite as the first 4 decades of the 21st C. Got a feeling we are though.
So there it is. Is this a revolution? Maybe, in a school-science-fair sort of way… but there is one hell of a lot of hype to live up to – mostly because this is a science-fiction technology – and has been since… well, the 20th Century. I think it’s fair to say that it’s gotten beyond its first baby steps though. It’s been around for decades… but there does seem to be a bit of a Cambrian explosion going on… although as yet, it’s a technology without a killer application.
If a killer-app is going to emerge… it’s going to happen (I think) by way of breaking a trade-barrier… either physical or legal. The physical is to do with places that don’t have postal-services or even roads. The legal is to do with breaking IP monopolies, trade-sanctions and weapons-controls.
That is the killer-app of bits to atoms (aka: turning information into stuff) – it allows the internet to leak into physical space – and one thing the internet is really, really good at, is routing around blockages.
There is more money in Kickstarter… and this one actually does have better specs than the other one… but the most important thing about it is that it’s open-source. This means that instead of all the innovation happening behind closed doors, executed by a small team (of one), it becomes a platform for innovation by anyone, anywhere, who’s interested.
The open variant has pulled down $140k so far (they only wanted $50k)… and still has 25 days to go. If memory serves, it achieved $100k in only two days.
I promise you, there is more money in open-platforms than closed products.
Meantime, the two main crowdfunding power-houses, kickstarter and indiegogo appear to have a new 3D printer variant turning up every week. If you search for “3d printer” you get these:
The overarching trend is a) shineyness of design and b) downwardness of price.
I’ll be really surprised if we don’t see a sub $100 kit within one year.
So how does this fit into the reprap ecosystem?… I’m not sure that this is what Adrian Bower had in mind when he talked about an ever-evolving ecosystem of machines… because hardly any of these machines are repraps… they’re repstraps – ie: they’re not made out of parts made by 3D printers – they’re made by laser-cutters and mills and so on.
I think environmental pressures (and culling) are still there… but the replication isn’t really replication at the device-level. It’s replication at the memetic level, and the machine is just a physical expression of the meme rather than being a replicator in its own right. This is still producing machines that are better and better adapted to the conditions in which they need to exist (ie: the intersection of price, speed, resolution, and material variety)… but the driver isn’t classical natural selection at the device level. It’s something else.
And I think this might mirror something that is beginning to happen in the “natural” world – in genetics. We’re seeing the beginnings of a change in how natural selection works… ie: the mutations are no longer blind, but directed… the variations are no longer the result of the mixing of the genes of two parents, but the result of external interference – “intelligent design”. It’s early days yet, but I’m guessing this will become more and more prevalent.
Lanzatech, The New Zealand waste-eating-microbes company, created the microbes by way of an evolutionary fast-breeder. (as far as I can gather) they accelerated the process of natural selection until microbes with the desired characteristics evolved. This is pretty cool… but I’m guessing that the future will be more to do with tweaking DNA directly… and you can tweak the DNA of far larger creatures. It’s already happening, courtesy of that bastion of corporate evil, Monsanto. It’s only a matter of time before we start tweaking ourselves… and who wouldn’t? The alternative is pain and death… and besides, I want to live in an Iain Banks novel.
Maybe this is “Unnatural Selection”… or maybe it’s evolution growing wings… and it is what machines have done all along anyway. I think the idea of natural-selection at a device level is a fallacy of perspective. It’s not the devices that are evolving, it’s the culture, and the culture steals whatever memetic DNA it wants, from anywhere. Everywhere… and it’s only a matter of time before human DNA becomes assimilated by The Culture.
It’s an online CAD system that gives a basic framework for a fairly complex object, and then lets the relatively unskilled tweak to their own peculiar tastes… then output a file that will make it. Actual, actually make it in real actual reality – with a 3D printer.
only it will actually be worse than that, because there will be over 70 variants within that.
I’m not supporting Internet Explorer from now on. I just don’t care anymore. I have an audience, and none of them use fucking IE. Right now I have Chrome, Opera and Firefox all running at the same time. They’re all good for what they’re good for – the only thing IE is good for is checking to see if websites work in IE. Forget it. It’s over.
Anyway – OpenJScad is pretty good – I made this for it:
It has the ability (built in) to create forms with dropdowns so people can make their own variants. Tis the future I tellee… for a while at least. I quite like it because it (like the web itself) is a text-based scripting language (rather than a GUI)… and being a web-dev, I find that reassuring. Unfortunately Chrome has a built-in limit to its stack-size, so if you try to make the resolution too small it will crash. But… there it is. Pretty cool.
I remember reading somewhere that you could theoretically recapture the sounds of ancient Ethiopia by getting an old Ethiopian pot and rotating it with an ancient Ethiopian’s finger retracing the movements the original one made when it was on the potter’s wheel… like a wheel-thrown pot could act like a giant wax cylinder.
This is like that. Is it? No. Not really. Oh well.
Cool though, in a 70s/60s paleo-non-futuristic sort of way.
The thing that took my head off about this isn’t the printer that the talk was about… but the day-job one that can do detailed 3D prints the size of dust motes. I mean the other printer is impressive… but nanometer-scale resolution? That’s insane.
Not sure what you’d do with it mind. Make tiny rubiks cubes probably.
Anyway – today is day 2 of 2012, year of the Mayan Rapture, which may or may not just be an ancient millenium bug. It would be kindof appropriate to do a retrospective of 2011, and a forecast of 2012, but I’m too hung-over and confused and I’ve been hiding under the bed for the last 2 days. 2011 was a busy year. Not for me… for everyone else. Shit happened. A lot of it. But not the Christian Rapture. Obama declared Martial Law though… oh… hang on… no, that’s yesterday. 2012 has started already – and it’s showing every sign of turning into a massive fight. The most disturbing video I’ve seen this year so far is this one where Cory Doctorow talks about the coming war on General Computing.
3D Printed bits + aerospace fabric + A LOT of fiddley construction.
Really cool though because (as far as I can tell) it’s modular, so you could make smaller ones out of the same stuff. Or bigger ones… maybe. Or different shapes. Stick it up on kickstarter. You’ll make a million dollars.
Mind you, if I had a choice between the kite, and the lenses they used to shoot this video, I think I’d go for the lenses.
Initially I found Sugru to be quite annoying… not sure why. There was something a bit “yay” and “wow” about the way it was marketed… and I’m deeply suspicious of Hoxton types… I don’t know if the woman who made this is a Hoxton type, but the signs are there. Hoxton types made that little printer thing that looks a bit like hitler.
I’m just deeply suspicious of anyone trying to be “Passionate” about something they’re selling.
But then I bought some and it’s actually really useful. I’ve used it to replace all the rubber bits on my laptop that have gotten lost, as well as make this little thumb-guard thing to stop me accidentally hitting the touchpad, which was a real pain before. I’ve also used it for making a rubber foot for a clamp… for making golden mean calipers, and used it in place of heat-shrink on a cable that was always breaking. It’s weird stuff. Like blu-tak which turns into hard rubber.
Anyway, using a 3D printer to make molds is quite a neat idea… because it allows you to make a lot of very similar things very quickly. Which is pointing out the bleeding obvious I suppose… but it kindof bridges a gap. Not everything that we might want to make is a one-off. Things like candles or soap… or product-specific packaging… or toys… or… dunno. Art. Stuff gets interesting when you can do it big.