This past Saturday my partner and I attended Atlanta Maker Faire 2016, which was actually held next door to Atlanta, in Decatur (if you’re a local, you know that makes a difference). It was like Atlanta Pride, the Inman Park Festival, and various other annual events, in that relevant businesses and clubs from all over the area gathered to set up booths and tables and show off their various wares and services. Most were set up on Decatur High School’s football field, covered in artificial turf, which seems vaguely appropriate.
There were blacksmiths. Model plane and drone hobbyists. Several robotics teams from colleges and high schools. A guy was in attendance who builds canoes and sailboats skinned in Tyvek insulating fabric. And there were many, many 3D printers, owned by organizations that offer 3D-printing services or offer to help people build their own printers.
As interesting as the Faire was overall (and as annoying as is the precious silent “e” in the name), it’s the 3D printers that really grabbed my attention. They’re a curiosity now; an expensive toy for most people. But in the very near future they’re going to completely revolutionize our world. Pretty much everything we wear and use on a daily basis will be printed at home: clothes, food, silverware, eyeglasses, replacement parts, pets—and it will seem as normal to us as buying things in stores does today.
Even larger items will be 3D printed. Today we have home printers for small jobs, but still go to Kinko’s if we need a big production collated and bound. Three-D printing will be the same; we’ll print whistles, shoes, and ukuleles at home, but go to Kinko’s analogues to pick up our freshly printed couches, or automobile tires, or for that matter, automobiles.
This decade has seen a lot of hand-wringing over Amazon.com and other etailers driving big brick-and-mortar stores out of business. The etailers dominate today, but they will be the next to go, or at least change radically, because we won’t need them once 3D printing technology has matured. The only physical objects we’ll need to buy is the raw stock of plastic, protein, metal, and other materials that our printers use. If the etailers survive, it will be because they’re selling these materials, or they’re selling the patterns that our printers use to deliver the finished products.
Of course, we’ll be making our own patterns, or modifying downloaded patterns to suit our own tastes. The world of pervasive 3D printing will be a bespoke world.
What do you think about this near future? Leave a comment and let me know!
Below are some links I gleaned from my visit to the Faire. There’s some fun stuff here; enjoy!
Creative Solar USA
Creative Solar USA is a company that evaluates residences for their suitability for solar power systems, then installs them. It’s working with the Solarize Decatur-DeKalb coalition.
A solar power installation will be paid off in around ten years, with current technology. The system will last for 30 years, so a homeowner would have free electricity for 20 years before having to replace the system. Presumably by 30 years from now the technology will be cheaper and last longer.
3D Printing Tech
This company sells 3D printing services and consultations in the area.
Kennesaw State University Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Team
These guys were KSU students who had built what looked like a tiny submarine built into a transparent bento box. I’d have loved to see it in action, but it was broken down when I visited their booth. “We’re waiting on a part,” they told us.
Decatur Makers maintains a “maker space” for members to use. According to their mission statement, “Decatur Makers is a welcoming, family-friendly community of inquisitive, motivated people who work together in a safe environment to discover, understand, design and create interesting things.”
Decatur Makers have a “MakerBot Replicator 2” 3D printer. It retails for around $3,000. I found it for sale here at Amazon.com.
This is an online, crowdsourced catalog of 3d-printable patterns.
To be honest I’m not sure what these people are about. I can’t get their website to load.
These folks offer another makerspace, like Decatur Makers.
Growing produce in tiny glass-walled biospheres!
These are your people if you want extruded metal frameworks.
These folks have plans on their website that show you how to make your own propane-powered aluminum casting foundry out of a metal cook pot and other items. It would only cost a few hundred dollars; my partner is encouraging me to go for it.
I Made 3D
On display at this booth was a “JellyBox” homemade 3D printer. I doubt it’s as versatile as the MakerBot printer mentioned above, but it’s much cheaper, at about $800. The IMade3D people were selling kits.
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