Let’s just get this out of the way: I’m a little bit of a nerd. Perhaps not a full-on computer sci/ engineering nerd, but I do exhibit a few of the stereotypical tendencies. In fact, I’ve had a bit of a career in the post-production industry out here in Los Angeles. And post-production tends to be filled with somewhat handy, nerdly people.
I’ve also had a minor introduction to 3d printing before. Mostly out of intrigue, I whipped up a model for a necklace, and had it printed in stainless steel by Shapeways. It was an interesting process, and the pendant actually came out looking much better than I expected, especially given that I only learned just enough of the software to extrude a flat image into something 3-dimensional. (In layman’s terms: I’ve got some pretty basic skills going on in this department.)
Given this, and that I also have an interest in printing more in the future, I figured I’d see if I could perhaps watch some of that fancy printing in person by heading on over to the 3d Printer World Expo 2014.
Well… I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it was pretty small, extremely crowed, and way too loud. It was also extraordinarily ‘dude-centric’. And by dude-centric, I mean dudes who walk in front of you, block your view, and pretty much hog what little there is to see. That kind of dude-centric.
Fortunately for me, there really wasn’t all that much to see unless I had something very specific I wanted to try and scream loudly to a vendor about (I didn’t). Though, they did have a lot of seminars you could attend if you forked out a couple hundred extra dollars (definitely didn’t do that). In the way of general admission, it looked like only one booth was actually printing live (come on guys, fire up your fancy printers!), and I pretty much got forced out of the way by more dudes trying to watch it anyway. Oh what fun.
They also had some 3d printed sculptures on display, which were actually nice to look at. I particularly liked the works by Gil Bruvel, (pictured above) although I would have loved to know more about how he went about constructing something like this. It’s quite striking.
There was also a section on medical applications. Although there was very little physically on display here, instead utilizing posters with descriptions and photos of successful procedures, it was still probably one of the most interesting portions. Things like stem cells, prosthetic limbs, and in once case, a dog born without back feet received… 3d printed, implanted feet. And now he apparently walks like a new cyborg-dog. It’s hard not to be a little bit excited about the future applications of the technology.
And last but not least, this:
I haven’t the slightest idea why or what this was for, but it does make me want to own a printer large enough to create something similar. Maybe a life-sized tiger for my cat to play with? Or… a horde of fake plastic house cats? I could line the yard with them and unnerve all my neighbors. Yup, I like to dream big.
So, my 28-day experiment seems to have started out with a bit of a whimper, but at least I had managed to procure a pretty deep discount on my ticket to begin with. And even better, I dropped into a Marshall’s on the way home, and I magically found a pair of $15 jeans that fit and aren’t made of that extra spandex-y material. Success! Now if I could only figure out how to print a pair at home… I’d be in heaven.