There is a lot of discussion online regarding the possible (inevitable?) copyright/intellectual property/patent/legal fights around personal 3D printing. However, I’ve yet to see anything about a different fight that I have experienced several times now, so I figured I’d write about it and see what others think.
Mine, mine, mine!
As long as I’ve been printing on my Thing-o-Matic I’ve felt joy, wonder, and a bit of pride over the things I’ve been able to design and 3D print and hold in my hand in a matter of minutes. The feelings are very similar to those I’ve experienced in the past when I’ve produced other types of “things” — ceramics, music, art, newspaper ads, and so forth; there’s something special in all of them. The one-of-a-kind pieces, like the ceramics, have an even more special feeling to them: I made this, there is only one, don’t you dare break it or even look at it funny! It’s a sense of personal ownership, much akin to having spent money on something special, like your first car or a wedding ring. This is different from, say, the feeling of ownership of a bag of chips, or a new pair of shoes.
Several times over the past months that I have been 3D printing things, I’ve misplaced a piece or two here or there; or like today, a whole bag of pieces! As these things have that special feeling of personal ownership, I immediately freaked out when I discovered them missing. I called my wife at home: where they there? No?!! Could they be in the car? Could they be at the studio? I literally broke out in a nervous sweat.
And then I realized in one of those physically stumble and grab onto something moments: I can simply replace these “things” by 3D printing more of them.
Unlike other items that share this sense of personal ownership, I hadn’t paid money for these items. Well, not a substantial amount of money, maybe $2 worth of ABS plastic; the majority of “cost” was my time. Since all of these items have already been designed and run through ReplicatorG to make the 3D printer (gcode) files, the only thing I’d have to do is load them and press “print”. I had around 15 items in the bag, and the majority were 10-15 minute prints, so maybe with a half-day of running items back-to-back I could replace all lost items.
This is what struck me as not having seen being talked about: my sense of personal ownership has changed.
Unlike those ceramics or other special things that really are not replaceable or just expensive, these were neither. Not really.
But also unlike other day-to-day “things” around the house, these “things” still held a special worth to me — they still have a bit of me in them.
I begin to wonder that when we are to the point of downloading and 3D printing the shoes we want that day, will we still have what now may be an old-fashioned sense of ownership? While we (most likely) aren’t going to be designing our own shoes to 3D print, do they have that feeling of wonder just because we output them on our machine? Do we still get upset when someone takes them, or damages them? Or do we just not care because we can output another, clean, fresh pair?
Do we then lose the wonder of our own pieces?
In doing so, do we gain a new sense of altruism? That is, if I can just 3D print myself a new pair of sneakers, can’t I just do the same for the kid down the street who doesn’t have a 3D printer?
Maybe this is the concern of at-home 3D printing to today’s mass-market consumer goods companies.