Who's worried about 3D printing?
Games Workshop sells expensive solid objects with no moving parts, to people that tends towards the geeky – so it’s not too surprising that their miniature designs were copied and uploaded to Thingiverse. Equally unsurprising was the round of DMCA takedowns directed by GW at the offending miniatures. Officially, Games Workshop has not formed a view on The Pirate Bay and other 3D printing sites – but it’s sure to occupy their minds over the next few years.
Film studios have been reeling from the effects of online piracy for years – so it’s not surprising that their knee-jerk response to 3D printing copyright issues is to respond in the same way that they do to movie pirates. 3D printing enthusiast Todd Blatt uploaded a replica of the alien cube prop used in the film Super 8 to Shapeways. A mere 18 hours later, he was slapped with a cease-and-desist from Paramount Pictures. Not surprising, since there’s money in replica props – but 3D printing is just another method of manufacture; would the studio have come after him if he’d made it in his garage at home?
If it’s not worried about 3D printing already, the Nordic furniture maker should be. Its business model is built around warehouses full of affordably-priced home furnishings – exactly the sort of thing that 3D printing might be able to offer more conveniently and cheaply. Add to that the ability to cheaply customise your products – Sculpteo and Shapeways already offer the ability to personalise everything from cutlery to lamps – and suddenly IKEA’s warehouses full of mass-produced identikit products seem less than appealing. Still, they’ll always have the meatballs.
And who’s embracing it?
Best-known for making aerospace and defence technology, EADS has been busy with its 3D printers – as well as making aircraft parts that couldn’t previously have been constructed, it has also created the “Airbike,” a nylon bicycle that’s stronger than steel or aluminium. It’s a showcase for 3D printing tech, with the wheels, axle and bearings built inside the bike during the additive construction process. The saddle’s designed with an auxetic structure to cushion your backside, while the bearings are built straight into the hubs.
The venerable brick maker doesn’t have much choice over how to respond to the 3D printing onslaught – its bricks are out of copyright, so you can make your own as long as you don’t use the Lego logo on them. Lego's value lies in its brand, community and fun platforms like ReBrick (rebrick.lego.com) and Cuusoo (lego.cuuso.com). If you want to see what manufacturing companies are going to look like in the 3D-printed future you could do worse than take a leaf out of Lego’s book. It's rather appropriate that the future of manufacturing should be laid on foundations of Lego bricks.
Iris van Herpen
Fashion designer Iris Van Herpen has created outlandish couture for the likes of Lady Gaga and Bjork – so it’s no surprise that she’s enthusiastic about the new technology of 3D printing.
Her intricate dresses are designed in Photoshop and turned into a 3D model with the help of an architect – then her designs go off to 3D printing firm Materialise, which renders the outfit in polymer. The process lets Van Herpen create outfits like the Escapism dress – complicated, symmetrical forms with high levels of detail, which couldn’t be created with needles and thread.
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