3D printing technology has become an agent of social change, generating advancements in different scales, from households to ecosystems. The growing availability of 3D printers alongside more user friendly software allows designers and innovators to reach and influence a wider audience, here are a few examples:
From home appliances to materials. Jesse Howard in collaboration with Leonardo Amico, Tilen Sepič, and Thibault Brevet, in their recent project, Cloning Objects (below), designed an alternative scenario in which a collection of products are each embedded with all of the information needed for their own reproduction. Providing this information within the objects allows them to be reproduced and distributed without a structured, formal network. The user can freely recreate, share or modify the object.
Dave Hakkens on the other hand, in his project Precious Plastics (below), focuses on creating a system for locally upcycling plastic waste. The system is composed of a set of machines; extrusion (3D printer), injection, compression and shredder. The system Hakkens proposes includes open source blueprints of those machines, together with the global distribution of know-how, in instruction tutorials as well as community forums.
2. Collaborative Process:
3D printing encourages a more collaborative process, allowing non designers to take an active part. Project EGG (below) is a pavilion of 5 x 4 x 3 meters, composed of 4670 uniquely shaped stones, 3D printed by Studio Michiel van der Kley together with hundreds of co-creators all over the world. Each stone individually shaped, the studio invited anyone interested in taking part to print one stone. The project showed the possibility of the printing community to be seen as a new and widely spread definition of factory.
Designer Anouk Wipprecht working in the emerging field of “Fashion-Tech” together with Polaire creative network, created an element and invited the crowd to modify, redesign it and send her the result. Putting together about 150 different elements, leading to a 3D printed crowd sourced dress (above).
3. Affordable life Changers:
One of the key aspects in designing for social change is adapting the design so unskilled people all over the world can create it. Project Daniel by Not Impossible (below) started from the story of Daniel Omar, a 14 year old boy from Sudan that lost both his arms. The Not Impossible team lead by Mick Ebeling set to make a prosthetic arm for Daniel as well as setup a 3D-printing prosthetic lab and training facility allowing local fitting of prosthetics.
4. Democratization of Ideas:
3D printing makes it easier to design and innovate for site-specific needs. Australian father and son, Stuart and Cedar Anderson, addressed a problem they (and many others) encounter when attempting to extract honey from a beehive; they created a 3D printed mechanism allowing honey to flow directly out of the beehive without opening it or disturbing the bees (below).
Designer Maya Ben David sees 3D printing not only as a potential of new abilities and techniques but as a process embodying new social, economical, cultural and political realities and visions. In her project Bypass (below) she designed a system of 3D printed water pipe fittings. Typically this infrastructure within houses uses specific standard-sized fittings- 90, 45 and T shape angles that restrict the movement of the pipe, this project offers new possibilities for these existing components and adds a level of flexibility through the use of 3D printing technology. By removing the constrictions of producing within the metal industry, alternative fittings can be created, each Bypass piece can be adapted to match existing or new parts, allowing every user to create unlimited positions and structures according to their needs.
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