3DDC 2016

On April 14th, I attended 3DDC, a 3D printing policy event hosted by Public Knowledge. I know this is a rather delayed post, but I think some of the topics brought up at the 3DDC event are worth discussing in this blog. There were panels of expert makers and 3D printing specialists, including some of our own from Techshop. The panels focused on 3D printing in regards to STEAM education, the environment, bridging the workforce skills gap, and the arts.

I attended the workforce gap and arts panels and was intrigued by some of the issues brought up by both the audience and panelists. For example, the workforce gap panel discussed the difficulties in teaching older makers how to use new technologies. As someone who grew up using a computer and learned to 3D model at a young age, I had never really thought about this. I always thought desktop 3D printers were relatively simple to use. Export the model as an STL, send it to the printer, make sure there is enough filament, hit the start button and *voila* a few hours later you have a print (ignoring the potential extruder clog- looking at you, Makerbot). But this process might not be as intuitive to someone who hasn’t used a computer from a young age or seen a 3D printer in action. While working at Techshop, I remember a lady calling in and asking if she could purchase ink and paper for our shop’s 3D printer. Of course it seemed funny at the time, but unless you’ve used a 3D printer, you probably wouldn’t know what the filament was made out of or how to load it into the printer. I can understand how learning to use this technology would be frustrating to an older audience. The panel discussed methods of teaching these new technologies to an older age group, from providing free classes at the library to holding workshops for retired veterans at Techshop. I believe you can “teach an old dog new tricks”, but it will take time and effort. Repetition and consistency is key in learning how to use machines and software; conduct tasks over and over until it is ingrained.

The first topic of conversation during the arts panel was using 3D scanning/printing to create replicas of famous pieces of art. The paradigm case: a 3D scan of Nefertiti’s bust. The bust is currently located in the Neues Museum in Berlin and is the subject of ownership conflict between Germany and Egypt. Two artists, Nikolai Nelles and Nora Al-Badri, snuck a 3D scanner into the museum and were able to gather enough data to create a detailed 3D replica of the bust, which they uploaded online and had this to say: “With the data leak as a part of this counter narrative we want to activate the artefact, to inspire a critical re-assessment of today’s conditions and to overcome the colonial notion of possession in Germany.” Though new information may have ousted the whole heist as a hoax, it brings up important issues with how we view the intersection of art and technology. What’s the difference between taking a picture at a museum versus a 3D scan? When does it become theft of cultural and artistic property? Does 3D printing an art piece make it a counterfeit? Does it matter who is overseeing the scanning and printing? Many museums are using the technology to preserve and document their collections. For example, look at the work the Smithsonian is conducting: http://www.3d.si.edu/. So what do you think? Is 3D scanning and printing detrimental or beneficial to how we see art?

The arts panel also brought in one of my favorite artists, Francis Bitonti. You might know him for his famous Dita Von Teese 3D printed dress (it’s killer). He is one of the most prominent and innovative artists using 3D printing and I’m excited to see what he has in store for us in the future. Here’s a picture of him during the panel, as well as his 3D printed dress. Overall, I had a great time at 3DDC and was left with many questions about the future of 3D printing.