It is really exciting to see those outside of the direct business of 3D printing are starting to promote the potential of the democratization of manufacturing through 3D printing. It is understandable that MakerBot is inspiring many with the relatively low cost to purchase a unit and materials, along with the physicality of the process that makes it easy for those new to the concept of 3D printing to understand how it works.
It may however also be detrimental if someone's first exposure to 3D printing is at a lower resolution and with material qualities not as advanced as those currently available through more commercial 3D printing techniques such as those available on Shapeways. It is fantastic that MakerBot and RepRap are lowing the cost threshold to own a 3D printer while online 3D printing services such as Shapeways lower the threshold of entry but without lowering the quality of materials available.
Shapeways is also working to make it easier to get started 3D printing with our Creators like the new Image Popper which takes a black and white jpeg to get started, or you can sketch in window if you are using Google Chrome.Very Cool.
What else can we do to help spread the exciting potential of 3D
printing, what would it take to get your parents printing? what would
it take to get your younger siblings or children 3D printing? What
would it take to get your grand parents 3D printing?
We remain committed to the essence of public libraries and a genuine commons, as a 'university of the people,' as a place where the knowledge of past generations is preserved for present and future research, in short: as a democracy machine.
We think that public libraries are a uniquely positioned institution for the public to be introduced to 3D printing technology. As you are probably well aware, there are major IP/patent/copyright issues that need to be navigated as this technology advances, and at present there are major anti-democracy forces trying to shut down this kind of innovation (the proposed COICA legislation being the most draconian example). Public librarians are a trusted institution, and if the public first encounters the potential of 3D printing in a place that they've always trusted when it comes to SHARING then it will help the public correctly navigate these IP concerns so that we can protect innovation that SHARES without resorting to STEALING. The key is that much of what is currently classified as piracy needs to be reclassified as good old-fashioned sharing.
Such a world would be a place where entities like Shapeways can truly thrive. As the public bumps up against the technical limitations of open source printing they're going to want to print out their final designs with the most advanced, hi-res materials and processes possible.
We're not just trying to brainstorm this idea, we're actually trying to make it a reality. We appreciate you're highlighting this project. I think if we can generate some buzz among makers/hackers it can only help get this project off the ground.