I have quoted former TreeHugger prez Ken Rother before: "3D printing right now feels like computers did in the late seventies, an explosion of creativity and building in garages and basements, just waiting for the killer app." And I have to wonder, could this be it? Could this be what we have been waiting for?
Through the wonders of computer technology, you can now go online at My Robot Nation and design your very own robot. Unfortunately it isn't a real, useful robot, just a cute plaster one, but as they say, it's just the beginning.
When you finish designing the robot, it is lovingly printed on a Z corporation printer.
The printer projects the digital model of the 3D object into a compact base of gypsum powder (similar to plaster of Paris). Next, just as an inkjet moves over paper to print a document, it deposits a binder with 24-bit color layer-by-layer into the plaster-like base, literally building your robot millimeter by millimeter from the powder.
As it's built, the loose powder around it supports its structure so there is no wasteful scaffolding to remove, no toxic materials or run-off, and the unused loose powder is recycled right back into the machine.
An expert artist gently pulls your robot from the powder, as if on an archaeological dig, and carefully (they're very fragile in this state) blows off the loose powder and begins a sealing process that strengthens the collectible and gives it its special surface feel. Your robot is then set to cure and shipped directly to your door!
It is all completely silly, a cute but useless product that is shipped across the country, which kind of defeats the point. It is also just the start of something much bigger. Team Robot writes in their blog:
At My Robot Nation, we believe that you are the future. You have the ability and the creativity to personalize your world. Sure, we’re making robots right now, but imagine the possibilities if you can make anything! No need to pick from a catalog that everyone in the world also picks from. You can personalize your life…your stuff..your everything. We know that this is going to happen and we want to make it happen faster.
You can be a part of putting an end to mass manufacturing….mass boring…mass sameness! 3D printing gives you the power to make manufacturing become individualization – efficient, earth-friendly, and local.
Today, expensive little plastic/plaster robots. Tomorrow the world.