For every person who attempts to use a technology such as 3D Printing for a weapon (and whether the journalistic hype surrounding the drama actually meets reality), there are hundreds of thousands of people who use 3D Printing for something creative such as the iShooter, a 3D Printable ring stabilizer for the iPhone and iPad.. No more shaky videos and may even be handy for some gyroscope based driving/flying games (not first person shooters)...
We have seen 3D Printed experiments in variable structures in concrete and the potential it has for creating intelligent structures for architecture. Netfabb have recently uploaded a really simple, interesting video of the capillary effects of 3D Printed structures.
There is massive unrealized potential with 3D Printing to make the materials function in much more intelligent ways than they are currently being used. There are two main factors that contribute to the current underuse of the materials and processes.
The first is the capacity of the human mind to understand the true potential of a new material. When we are given a new material we often use it in the same way, or as a direct replacement for an existing material. As we did with Bakelite to plastics and now with 3D Printing. As we begin to better understand the materials and processes we start to use them in more sophisticated ways until we make the most of their potential, using them for their unique material properties.
The second is the tools we use to design and fabricate the materials. From hand tools to power tools and now the 3D modeling tools, we are limited by the forms that the software will allow us to create. With tools within 3D modeling software like Grasshopper, Netfabb or those being developed and used by Nervous System we are starting to see the very tip of the iceberg of intelligent tools to design for digital fabrication.
We will start to see 3D printed forms being innovative not just in the external forms as we currently see in the Shapeways galleries but also in their internal structure. The structure of the materials will start to be optimized for strength, weight, porosity, flexibility, impact, abrasiveness, friction and many more factors through data input, not just manual crunching of CAD. We have seen it start to happen in the arts with form such as Joris Laarman's Bone Chair and Bridge Table and in medicine with porous ceramic structures used to aid in bone grafts but it will eventually be a standard practice in design to enter requirements to define both material structure and form for digital fabrication.
Hopefully Netfabb's simple video will act as inspiration for us all to start think of digital fabrication in this way.
Steve Tung has produced a short video featuring Shapeways online 3D Printing service alongside DIY 3D Printing with 3D-Bots and experimental processes such as 3D printing wood with Ronald Rael, Professor of Architecture at UC Berkeley.
Mark Frauenfelder, founder of boingboing interviews Kevin Mack on his use of 3D Printing to make his otherwise impossible art real. There are thousands of amazing 3D Printed sculptures in the Shapeways gallery but it is always inspiring to hear how an artist approaches the opportunity to make the impossible, with math...