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  • Topic: 3D printing, Direct digital manufacturing
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  • Published : May 5, 2013
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Essay Katharina Hahn

3D Printer: 21. Century Industrial Revolution?
A revolutionary production process changes the contemporary understanding of brands. The introduction of 3D printing is shifting the production of objects from the factory to the home. It enables consumers to free themselves from traditional suppliers and gives them the choice to follow their own acquisition strategy. Due to this development, brands need to redefine their status as well as their sovereignty of production. This year, renowned art institution Ars Electronica and Volkswagen AG will once again exhibit a joint project at Volkswagen Automobil Forum Unter den Linden in Berlin. This year‘s theme „Impuls + Bewegung“ (Impulse + Movement) raises the issue of how consumers today are caught between self-determination and disempowerment, especially in urban spaces. One of the exhibits examines an everyday object from this angle - a shoe. What is so special about it? It is neither custom-made over many hours, nor one among many mass-produced shoes. This shoe is printed. Melonia Shoes by Naim Josefi (2010)

Credit: Andreas Larsson

„‘Melonia Shoes‘ are made entirely of polyamide and produced by 3D printing. The shoes are built in one piece and, in case the owner does not like them anymore, can be reproduced by melting the material and re-using it for new ones. The striking shoes already proofed their functionality at this year‘s Stockholm fashion show.“

Stand:

17. Dezember 2012 20:39

© GREENKERN 2011 | Page 1/4

Printing is the new manufacturing Three-dimensional printing is not new; it has been applied in science and industry for years. But due to advances in technology it is now becoming increasingly relevant for private costumers. It is as easy as this: what can be printed with ink on paper, can also be printed using solid materials such as plastics, metal powder, gypsum or synthetic resin. Using a laser and powder, objects are being built, micrometer-thin layer by layer. All one needs is a set of data. What used to require a couple of machines and materials can now be replaced by a single 3D printer. 3D printers are mainly used for small repair parts such as screws and nuts, however, there seems to be no limit when it comes to the size of the print. Italian inventor and engineer Enrico Dini of Pisa developed a 3D printer called ’D-Shape‘ with which he printed an entire house within a week. His next printing job: a moon base. Printing in three-dimensional space will revolutionise the process of production, according to Neil Gershenfeld, Head of the Centre for Bits and Atoms at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): “3D printing technology will not only redefine the balance of power in industrial manufacturing, but also shock the economic world as a whole.” On one hand, objects can be produced easily and with yet unused materials (e.g. Enrico Dini‘s house), which also promotes a simplified distribution into the markets. Corporations thus profit from efficiency and cost benefits due to the lack of production, storage and delivery costs and the accompanying reduced CO2 emissions. On the other hand, now everyone is able to own a small manufacturing line at home. Printers for private use are becoming \more affordable; current prices start at 400 USD, going up to 15,000 USD for the ‘Designjet 3D‘ by Hewlett-Packard. With this model, it is possible to print any plastic item, layer by layer, up to the size of a shoebox.

Original in danger? 3D printers in industrial settings raise the issue of simplified production processes. However, we are more interested in looking at the domestic environment: What impact do 3D printers have on products, companies and brands if everyone is suddenly able to print products at home with very little effort? What does it mean if one doesn’t want to order the earrings from an online shop and wait for them to arrive int he mail, but would rather simply print them? Imagine the new iPhone earbuds are just...
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