by Maria Serra, Onclaude Founder
Duann Scott, Designer Evangelist at Shapeways and consultant at digital fabrication consultancy Bits to Atoms, gives us some interesting insights on 3D printing and its future challenges, on how open design is breaking the old way of doing business with patents and "design secrets" and how designers and makers can push the technology further.
1Let's talk about quality. How is the 3D printing ecosystem evolving?
Over the past 5 years the 3D printing has evolved in three major ways, first the explosion of affordable desktop printers based on the expired FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) patent, secondly the greater availability of high quality 3D printing via online 3D printing services such as Shapeways and thirdly the availability of free 3D modeling software. This is a stable foundation upon which the 3D printing ecosystem to grow. For 3D printing to become ubiquitous, there needs to be a continuous investment, and improvement in the range of quality of materials we can 3D print in. We already have the ability to fabricate in Sterling Silver, Brass, Bronze, Stainless Steel and a small range of Polymers, but we need to be able to combine those materials to create objects for greater complexity and functionality. The barrier to entry to get something 3D printed is the software, to learn how to 3D model and engineer a product is too much to ask of the average person who wants a specific item, we need more apps that configure the object on behalf of the user, who would specify their needs from a few simple choices.
From there they may decide to take the time to learn to design something from sketch, but in most instances the user should not even be aware that they are 'designing' their own product, nor is it likely they will care if it is 3D printed, they should just get exactly what they want, and for it to be 3D printed. At the same time the CAD tools for professional designers need to evolve to make the most of digital fabrication. Currently most CAD packages are based on traditional manufacturing techniques which happen to be OK for digital fabrication, but it is when we can grow designs around set parameters, use FEA as a calculated feedback system to thicken parts for strength and remove mass for efficiency as a standard design tool, that we will be optimizing the design tools for the process.
2 How would you define "open design" and how do you think this idea will change in the future?
To me, 'Open Design' is the sharing of ideas in a scientific method so we can all improve from each others learning/mistakes. As the tools of manufacture become available to more people through digital fabrication, we are seeing a democratization of design, a lowering of the barrier of entry to get a product to market. This creates an environment where non-professionals, or emerging designers are teaching themselves to solve problems, and sharing their learning in online peer to peer networks. This breaks with the old way of doing business with patents and design secrets. We can look at what happened with open source software and how it became the backbone of the internet, perhaps we will see design grow some new spines in similar ways.
3 Design Thinkers and Makers... how can they collaborate?
Digital fabrication makes it easier to test an idea in the real world. By collaborating with makers, thinkers can realize a concept and hold their idea in their hand. Makers know the power of this, and sometimes it is overwhelming to have such a blank canvas of possibility, by collaborating with a thinker, or anyone with a problem to solve, or an idea to test, it focuses the maker to push the materials and processes. Together the exploration is of great value, and the result is often an elegant solution, or realization from the combined focus and effort.
Duann Scott is an Industrial Designer, writer and researcher specializing in the democratization of product design through online digital fabrication. Helping everyone from individual artists, designers and educators to major brands understand how they can use 3D printing to maximum potential. With experience bringing bespoke products to being through traditional fabrication techniques and cutting edge 3D printing technologies Duann’s practical experience combined with his academic research into the social implications of digital fabrication gives him a broad understanding of the 3D printing ecosystem as it evolves.
Watch an interview to Duann at Shapeways NYC factory on YouTube: