One of the things I’m trying to avoid here at Busted Utopia is that kind of fanboy geekiness that overtakes people when they are talking about things like 3D printing and AI and all the rest of it. As cool as I think some of the tech is, the point here is to talk about it in more social and political terms. To me, that’s what we have to come to terms with, and it is just interesting in its own way.
Still, you can’t talk about the social and political ramifications without knowing what the tech can actually do, so it is useful (and interesting) to look at some of the developments that are going on.
This 3D-printer add-on called Z-unlimited caught my eye this morning.
Essentially it is a piece of hardware that you can add to your conventional 3D printer (in particular, the Ultimaker) that allows you to print extra-large objects. The project is currently trying to raise funds via Kickstarter and over there they explain:
“The Z-Unlimited basically flips your 3D printer upside down and moves it all the way up along a wall while it is printing. To convert your 3D printer to reach unlimited height will only take you 10 minutes. And this operation is just as easy to undo.
With the Z-Unlimited add-on your Ultimaker will be able to print really tall objects like large vases, wine bottles, life-sized (scanned) human sculptures or even an elephant!
Last summer Joris executed the first project with his Z-Unlimited invention. Live at Schiphol airport he 3D printed a life-sized elephant as a 3D petition against elephant abuse. The installation with five Ultimakers combined with Z-Unlimited was only actively printing when people signed the petition. Since more than enough people signed the petition the life-sized 3D printed elephant was completed within two weeks!”
It seems to me that this sort of development is essential for 3D printing. Yes, there are already printers that can print houses, but something like the Z-unlimited opens up the possibility of being able to print functional, human-scale furniture and the like. It really could be like have your own private Ikea in your garage.
Now, how good a thing that really is remains to be seen, but the point is, it underlines just how disruptive such technologies are likely to be. The ramifications for employment are likely to be quite noticeable.
And as far as I can see, no-one in Australian politics is giving this stuff the slightest consideration.