A Robot That Can Make More of Itself: The MakerBot

Makerbot Ad

One of the most significant recent developments in computing technology is the availability of devices that can turn a model that’s been created on a computer or scanned into a real 3D object. The advent of consumer 3D printing is something that really exemplifies John Onians’s “Four Stages of Amazement” (Gunning). First and foremost, 3D printing definitely provides a striking visual experience. Personally, I was blown away when I first saw a 3D printed object. I couldn’t believe that what I was seeing was fabricated by a desktop-sized device. I admit, however, that I did not experience physical paralysis (stage two of four). Next, I wanted to learn more (stage three of four). I wanted to understand how it was done, how I could do it, and I wanted to watch it happen. Seeing something that has been 3D printed is one thing, but seeing the process is another thing altogether. Finally, I was able to print my own 3D object (stage four of four), and in the process, I discovered how it all worked.

This is not a technology that has yet been assimilated so ubiquitously into peoples’ lives that the process of “defamiliarization” (Gunning) is relevant. It is in fact still in the “uncanny” (Gunning) stage, such that most people are still immensely impressed with a 3D printed object. Just yesterday I showed some people a 3D printed model of my head, and they were as impressed as I was when I first saw something produced by a 3D printer! So, we are in an important part of this technology’s life cycle. We are in the stage just after availability, but still before being commonplace.

In my research I found that the reactions to the emergence of consumer 3D printing were quite varied. Some articles hype it up as much as they can, while others take on more reasonable viewpoints. It’s clear that many people have high expectations for this technology. One excited magazine writer writes, “It could be a revolutionary age. MakerBot is one of a range of desktop manufacturing plants being developed by researchers and hobbyists around the world. Their goal is to create a machine that is able to fix itself and, ultimately, to replicate” (Simonite). Another somewhat more realistic writer quotes a printer expert as saying, “Right now, I don’t see the ‘ah-ha’ application that’s going to drive lots of adoption, but kind of a ‘gee…that’s interesting/cool/neat’ response from the market right now” (Daw).

We will have to wait and see what becomes of this up and coming technology. I believe that ultimately it will become as commonplace as regular printers are now.

Sources:

Gunning, Tom. Re-Knewing Old Technologies: Astonishment, Second Nature, and the Uncanny in Technology from the Previous Turn-of- the-Century. PDF.

Daw, David. “The 3D Printer Revolution Countdown: Print Your Own PC Coming Shortly.” PCWorld. IDG Consumer & SMB, 5 Dec. 2010. Web. 01 Feb. 2015.

Simonite, Tom. “Rise of the Replicators.” NewScientist – Tech. Reed Business Information Ltd., 2 June 2010. Web. 01 Feb. 2015.

Kalish, Jon. “A Mini-robot Business Grows in Brooklyn.” Crain’s New York Business. Crain Communications Inc., 14 Aug. 2009. Web. 1 Feb. 2015.

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