Photo Credit: Makerbot

In the Fall of 2011 over a Chipotle lunch, George Meadows and I were talking about the possibilities that 3D printing affords and just how far the technology had come in terms of price and ease of use. Just a few months later he had received funding from the Dean of Education to purchase a Thing-O-Matic (and later bought a second one of his own). These DIY kits gave us the opportunity for some real hands-on learning with the technology and we began conspiring to build a course that would put this exciting new technology in the hands of students.

It was always my intention to blog our process of building and working with the Makerbot, and I lost sight of that goal until now. Although the Makerbots are both fully assembled we continue to calibrate and work with them. I’ll definitely be going back and writing out a few posts of the trials and tribulations we’ve had along the way. In some respects the DIY kit was a great way to learn the ins and outs of how the machines work. But I have to say I’m more than a little happy to hear the newer machines come fully assembled!

3D printing is one of the truly revolutionary things you can witness. I’m reminded of Arthur C. Clarke’s third law “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” While showing the devices to undergraduate art students in a sculpture class those words rang truer than ever as their eyes lit up in wonderment. The power to create objects in a virtual space, print them, and hold them in the physical is unbelievable. The ability to share and remix “things” across the world wide web breaks wide the notion of copyright. Physical objects just become another manifestation of the digital models, which can of course be freely distributed across a network.

I hope you’ll follow this blog and keep an eye on what’s happening at UMW. As the cost of machines like this continues to drop and more of them come into the hands of consumers, we’re going to see disruptive things occur in this space. It’s a great time to be experimenting and hacking. Welcome to the future!

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