3D PRINTING – Spearheading the next Revolution (Part One)
The future of design – for sure, is linked with technology. And on the horizon, the one technology that will bring on a paradigm shift in the way we think and understand design – is 3D Printing! The last few years have seen an enormous leap in the accessibility and understanding of 3D Printing – a technology that’s close to magic! The latest hand-held 3D Printing machine now in the market promises exciting times ahead. It almost seems to create products like the meals that used to spring up, at the touch of a keypad, from The Jetsons’ microwave! That was one of the many futuristic projections of all that we saw in sci-fi books and TV shows – and now we are almost there! Here’s a peep into how 3D printing has the potential to radicalize art, architecture and design.
This is the first feature in the series to be published on TFOD – The Future Of Design!
“The future will happen with or without us, whether or not we decide to participate… if your next project is not aligned with the problems, needs, and desires of the future – the future will kill it!” – Thomas Frey, “Dean of Futurists” and Google’s top-rated futurist speaker has been quoted as saying. How very true! Indeed, “future-proofing the business” seems to have become mandatory for survival. One of the leading 3D printing companies Makerbot’s founder and former CEO Bre Pettis says – “It is the best time in the history of humanity to be a creative individual. The hardware and software tools are accessible, electronics are modular, and there are amazing resources available to those who are willing to explore the frontier of what happens next.” What happens next – of course will be guided by technological innovations.
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3D printing, already a large and growing business, has been listed as one of the top 5 technologies of the future! In fashion, food, and furniture - the future will be shaped by the new technology! Companies like Autodesk, Makerbot, Shapeways and others are already selling 3D printing hardware and software. As the technology becomes more popular and consequently cheaper too, it will become the mainstream tool for designers and innovators.
Or maybe, it already has! Early last year at Katy Perry’s stage show, the backup dancers wore mohawk-like helmets using Statuses 3D technology – a decision that came out of the constraint of getting well-fitting, light and durable ones manufactured in a very short time. Designed like contemporary version of Roman plumes, the helmets light up in an entire spectrum of colors, using LED technology. The helmets, worn by the dancers in the opening song of the tour which is Perry’s world-wide hitsingle Roar, were used over the entire year.
Designers have been showcasing 3d-printed showstoppers in many ramp shows, over the past couple of years. Adidas and Nike are exploring the technology to make lighter running shoes! In fashion, footwear, cosmetics, jewelry, lingerie, and dental implants, replication by 3D printing is getting more and more popular. Bio-printing is the term used for the application of 3D printing in the field of medicine – where efforts are on to replicate the human body organs like heart and liver!
A group of students from IIT, Guwahati called ‘The Ninjas’ have come up with the idea of a “sky Kitchen” – a wonderful option for inflight meals, where the travelers see a menu displayed on the screen in front of them, design their choice of meal and get it 3D-printed right away!! Though food printing machines are still under development, the idea is certainly a great one – capable of solving numerous logistic, health and hygiene issues at a go!
The major step in the realm of food printing is being taken by global giant Nestle, who is exploring the possibility of developing a Nespresso-style machine for “printing” customized meals with the right amount of vitamin D and minerals. ‘Iron Man’, by the Nestle Institute of Health Sciences (NIHS) is an analysis of what’s missing in our diets, and a delivering a product, tailored to help make up that difference.
While looking into the ‘future of footwear design 2050’ during her studies at Central St Martins, London, Shamees Aden, a designer and researcher has created a prototype for running shoes that can actually repair themselves overnight. The shoes are made of ‘cells’ that regenerate so they won’t wear out. Called Protocells Trainers, the shoes are made of protocells. They are 3D printed in order to create perfectly fitting shoes for the user. Aden worked together with Dr. Martin Hanczyk from the University of Southern Denmark to develop a synthetic biological substance using protocell technology. Protocells are non-living molecules which can be combined to create materials that react on movement, pressure, heat and light. The great thing about protocells is that they can be 3D printed and whilst being used in a shoe they appear to fit the wearer’s feet like a “second skin”.
The effect to the wearer is that the Protocells synchronise with the feet; as this living technology is responsive and reconfigurable. It adapts in real time to the current activity of the runner by adding extra support in high impact areas. After each run, the user can place the shoes in a jar filled with protocell liquid, wherein the protocells will heal their own tears. Despite of the fact the protocells really aren’t alive, they appear to act a little like human skin and are responsive to pressure.
“3D Printing is the only technology that poses a threat to the furniture retail business,” the top boss of the world’s leading furniture retailing chain said in response to a question about the impact of the rampant proliferation of online sales. Rather than furniture getting sold online killing their market share, the CEO of the brand feels that 3D printing has the potential to upset the cart.
That is spot on! 3D printing is set to revolutionize the world – of design and manufacturing, in unprecedented ways. It will affect world economy, and may even significantly tilt the scales away from the current global leader China – because all the factors that took China to its present reign over the manufacturing sector will be countered and even negated by the new technology.