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3D Printing Space

With the continuing spread and increased availability of 3D printers, the question of what to print will come up more often than how do we print it? Even if you aren’t in the market for a home additive manufacturing (AM) system, printing services are as near as the internet. Democratized manufacturing is becoming a reality.

You can find plenty of different 3D model collections online, including some produced by the US government. A number of museums have begun offering digital libraries for print, and now NASA is getting into the act. The space exploration agency has put a new collection of 3D models online, copyright free, and intends to grow the collection through contributions.

3D model of the unmanned craft sent to explore Saturn. Courtesy of NASA.

3D model of the unmanned craft sent to explore Saturn. Courtesy of NASA.

NASA certainly hasn’t been shy about its interest in AM. It has investigated leveraging 3D printing for everything from building a moon base to bioprinting. Part of NASA’s mandate includes education, and it might be for that reason the agency has turned its experiences with 3D printing into a digital library. The collection includes 3D designs for satellites, exploration craft, and asteroids.

Interested in printing out your very own Cassini but don’t know where to begin? The Met has you covered. The internationally renowned museum has released an introductory guide to 3D printing appropriately titled 3D Printing Booklet for Beginners. The guide was written by Decho Pitukcharoen as his intern project, and it sums up the basics of how to get started with AM in a mere 17 pages.

Pitukcharoen’s work is part of the Met’s new drive to educate its audience on the growing link between art and technology. From the Met’s blog:

In the interest of furthering the conversation about the relationship between art and technology, my Media Lab colleagues and I will post articles designed to inspire you to Get Involved and Make Things. We’ll post software tutorials that make intimidating tools accessible to neophytes. We’ll interview our favorite creative technologists, to demystify their processes.

The guide takes new users step-by-step through creating a 3D model using digital camera, including a model repair stage, using 123D Catch. For those users without an AM system of their own, the guide also offers links to a number of different service bureaus.

Expect to see more and more of this kind of attention paid to AM by varying entities that deal with the public. Not only do programs like the above have a unique educational value, they are also reasonably inexpensive ways to advertise and build goodwill.

Below you’ll find a video that discusses the benefits of museums embracing 3D printing.

Sources: NASA, Met

About John Newman

John Newman is a freelance writer in Northeast Ohio.

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