March 13, 2013

Why 3D print?

I believe that 3D printing will be as revolutionary as the personal computer was. Even more so. What the personal computer did for the accessibility of bits, 3D printing will do the same for atoms.

Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot, recently said that 3D printing was "having its Macintosh moment", which I'm going to interpret as the inflection point at which the technology becomes accessible to the early edge of the mass market, who begin to spread the virus of efficiency, productivity, and innovation afforded by said technology. I lived the Apple II moment as a geeky teenager and joined Apple shortly after the Macintosh moment. I have to know if Bre is right!?

I recently had the opportunity to attend a Singularity University Executive Program, and spent nine days having my mind blown by the likes of Ray Kurzweil, Peter Diamandis, Dan Berry, Neil Jacobstein, Ralph Merkle, Jonathan Knowles, and countless others. The experience is worthy of a post that will come someday. But the net result was a complete re-enforcement of my notion that 3D printing is an important step towards the Singularity event. It, combined with other equally important technology accelerations, fundamentally change the world we live in for the better.

So what to do about this? Make, of course. Whatever success I've had was afforded to me by three things:

  • Access to personal computers at the very beginning of the revolution
  • Access to smart, experienced, and kind teachers
  • Curiosity

For the next hardware revolution, I want change only a few words to continue to thrive:

  • Access to 3D printers and electronics at the very beginning of the revolution
  • Be the smart, experienced, and kind teacher
  • Curiosity

For this revolution, my focus will be on building hardware muscle mass. Focus on atoms. I added a small electrical bench to my home lab, and now my "curiosity" time is more saturated by Arduino, LED strips, and small motors. I still write software, but now firmware as much as client or server code. And these things I'm making need a shell, an approachable physical expression. Brad Feld has been famously quoted as saying that hardware is "software wrapped in plastic", so to make hardware I guess I need a 3D printer ;-)

I can't wait to learn this emerging art and science, joining the 10K+ people with 3D printers around the world today. I can't wait to think and design in 3D. I have a few projects in mind to guide my learning, and if those are successfully prototyped, maybe I have the beginnings of a few products. We'll see. The journey is the reward...

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