Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year’s Resolutions and 3D Printing

Today's blog is from Scott Harmon.
Generally, you can count me among the cynics who think that picking New Year’s as an arbitrary time to make commitments about the future is a bit like believing in the Easter Bunny. We should always be thinking about the future and what we can make do to make better. On the other hand, it doesn’t make sense to waste an opportunity. So here are some resolutions, hopefully for all of us in the design and engineering world, for 2012.

Make a difference in the life of a kid. I find that the most gratifying part of our business is the usage of 3D printers in middle schools and high schools. This article from a newspaper in Tennessee sums it up better than I can. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that 3D printers (in the hands of passionate skillful teachers) can change kids’ lives. I’m definitely not suggesting that learning to operate a printer will change anyone’s life. However, using a 3D printer teaches kids important lessons about creativity, engineering thinking, success and failure. In a world that has gone a little crazy with standardized tests and being right all the time, 3D printers (as an extension of design and engineering) teach lessons about creativity, messiness, curiosity, perseverance, failure, and discovery - things that really matter in the long term. So my first resolution is that we will continue to support efforts, like EngineeringZONE to expose kids to the wonder of being able create.

Produce More, Consume Less. Do you know anyone named Mason? Or Cobler? Or Smith? Or Farmer? Or Baker? Do you see what I’m getting at? Generations ago, we were literally defined by what we made. People succeeded or failed on the merits of the products they could produce, and their ability to produce those products effectively. Today, we seem to be much more likely to be defined by what we consume, than by what we produce. I’m definitely not advocating a return to pre-Industrial Age societal structure. However, I am hopeful that with the huge advance in design and fabrication technology at our fingertips, we might swing things back the other way. That we might use our innate creativity to Create more frequently, to design and make instead of just consume. We have the tools. I hope we still have the desire and ability.

Finally, I’d like to present my nomination for most creative use of a 3D printer in 2011. As far as I know this is the first ever marriage proposal using a 3D print. Our friends at My Robot Nation have the full story. What a great way to bring an eventful 2011 to a close, and kick off a great 2012.

Best wishes to you and yours for a happy and prosperous 2012.

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