technology | May 23, 2011

Do It Yourself Design: Tom Wujec on What 3D Printers Mean for You

The way we manufacture everything
from shoes to homes is about to experience a massive shakeup, says Tom Wujec, an innovation expert and Autodesk Fellow. “We have this insanely cool toolset emerging,” Wujec told attendees at the Ink Conference in India. Thanks to 3D “printers,” we will soon be able to literally print out objects.

Need a new pair of shoes? No problem: twenty minutes and a 3D printer and you can have your rubber sole. “We can manufacture locally and inexpensively,” Wujec said, adding that “complexity is free,” since this type of printer doesn't have a tougher time with intricate designs. For instance, there are already machines printing out blood vessels.

Wujec spoke, optimistically, of a new kind of manufacturing future where the old way of carving a tree into a table will be replaced with coded seeds that grow into the shape of a table—or whatever the final product may be.

Using the example of home publishing, Wujec envisions us creating things in local shops and at home. People will be able to license products, then have them materialize in front of them at, say, a Kinko's equipped with rapid fabrication machines. Once prices drop to the level of a home office laser printer, families will just make what they need at home.

Best of all, says Wujec, the simplification of the process will allow innovators to focus on core tenets of good products. “The call to action is to return to the most powerful aspects of design: does it do its job, is it functional, is it beautiful, does it delight the senses, does it respect the environment?”

This fast-approaching future, says Wujec, a regular TED speaker, will unlock an era of democratized design and unbridled creativity.

Read more about technology speaker Tom Wujec.

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