Open3DP Now Less Open

Entirely through no fault of their own, the astonishingly innovative academics at the Open3DP project have run into obstacles living up to the “open” in their name.

Since approximately, October 17, 2011, we’ve been a little bit more guarded about what is going on in our lab and perhaps a little less helpful or open to some of you. We’re sorry. Our University has decided, with no faculty involvement to change our consulting/engagement forms.

The change means that University of Washington is now claiming total ownership of intellectual property developed by facutly and students. Previously the project had been sharing its knowledge much more freely across an amazing breadth of efforts. These are the folks that figured out how to print 3D objects in wood and generally have been working with a variety of materials broader than most included concrete, glass and tea.

To benefit from their considerable experience now requires a consulting contract that may cost as much as $80K to $110K at a minimum. Several of the faculty are working to change the new policy. They are circulating a form letter in response to inquiries highlighting the situation and redirecting interested parties to other resources in the 3DP community.

I had the great pleasure of talking with one of the faculty working on Open3DP last Summer. The irony for me is that the conversation I had then informed me of the patent situation around powder bed 3DP technologies of which previously I had been largely ignorant. In a nutshell there are still considerable barriers in the form of intellectual property licensing keeping out all but the well financed commercial ventures or the most brazen academics and homebrew enthusiasts.

Sorry we’re not so Open lately, Open3DP (via BoingBoing)

3D/DC Recap

Last Thursday I attended Public Knowledge’s 3D/DC event down near the Hill here in DC. From the description it clearly promised to continue the discussion started in Michael Weinberg’s excellent white paper which frames the potential pitfalls and challenges facing this new technology from the realm of intellectual monopoly.

Yesterday Michael posted a very quick recap of the event. I thought I’d take a few moments to expand on the bare skeletion he lays out, the two panels focusing first on the various actors in the space and on questions posed and possible paths forward in the policy space then the open demonstrations from makers, educators, innovators and established companies. (You can also look at the tweets from the event, I tried to do my best despite a decrepit laptop battery and an extremely finicky touch screen on my notaphone.)

In the meet the makers panel I was surprised to see representatives from established commercial players. That says more about my bias, being most interested in the open source projects trying to make 3D printing accessible and the small innovators focusing much more on the personal scale than even on the smallest scale industrial applications. The story told by 3D Systems and ExOne in some ways is more concerning despite their obvious commercial success. 3D Systems has been bogged down in frivolous lawsuit and both reported an easier time in markets abroad than locally. The conversation did not progress much beyond the frustration at lack of growth, however, to more specific concerns. I also found it hard to muster too much sympathy as these are the very companies that are entirely ignoring people like me who would like nothing more than to purchase a packaged, easy to use 3D printer to place on my desktop and just start making things. However, if those with the most means are struggling to progress, what hope is there for the mere enthusiasts?

The second panel, moderated by Nate Anderson from Ars Technica, in many ways book ended the policy space. Michael Weinberg continued to endorse a view of allowing norms to evolve first before considering any kind of regulation. Melba Kruman coauthored a report on personal fabrication and drew on some interesting ideas from it for models of regulation. She was intensely optimistic which I wanted to be infectious. In reality a lot of what she said I found a bit naive in terms of how notions like micro-patents might work out. Mostly she espoused a view that we, those concerned about open access, have learned hard lessons from bad policy like the DMCA. The problem with that is so have the incumbents hence further reaches like ACTA, TPP and COICA. If we want open access in this space, we have to actively defend it, as much as that runs the risk of having concerns over intellectual monopoly drive much of the discussion rather than allowing focus to sit on innovation. Striking the right balance in that defense will be no easy challenge as my own seeming contradictory views on regulation vs. formalities suggests.

In both panels there were tons of parallels drawn to the earliest days of personal computing. I think that is a constructive model. I am concerned though that the regulatory and policy clime has permanently shifted. As much as I agree with Weinberg’s hope we can watch where the grass goes bare before laying the sidewalk, I simply don’t think we can afford to. Those threatened by the vast potential of 3D fabrication at all scales are simply too savvy to sit still while we dial the right balance in between incentives for progress and open access for the public interest. I suppose the unasked question is what are the possible unintended consequences if we get the defense of the technology wrong?

I am very glad that Michael and Public Knowledge are actively pursuing these conversations, regardless of how my own personal cynicism may temper my view of the general optimism held by others.

During the open portion of the afternoon, where various demonstrations were running, I spent a lot of time talking to the hackers, the makers and the educators. In particular in talking to Mark Ganter of open3dp I learned that intellectual monopoly on printed objects is not the only policy concern here as much as that was the major focus of the day. There is an excellent post on the open3dp site that explains quite clearly how the dominant academic regime for monetizing research has largely stifled certain forms of 3D printing. Spending so much time listening to him detail how constrained his work has been undoubtedly further tempered my enthusiasm. It is a shame really as even as hobbled as the homebrew and education communities may be, they are still doing some staggeringly cool stuff.

3D/DC, Public Knowledge Brings 3D Printing to the Capital

Continuing the excellent, forward looking work begun in their white paper on potential intellectual monopoly issues around the emerging technology of 3D printing, Public Knowledge is organizing an event to bring together techies and policy folks on March 28th at an as yet to be determined venue near the hill.

On April 28th at 3D/DC, the 3D printing community will descend on Washington, DC to show policymakers what they are up to. Panels will introduce the 3D printing community to the DC policy community, and explore some of the policy issues that this disruptive technology will implicate. During a demonstration phase, you will be able to see this technology in action first hand, and speak one-on-one with people and companies on the cutting edge.

I will be there, for the new day job no less. The event is free and open to the public but does require an RSVP.

3D/DC: 3D Printing Comes to the Nation’s Capitol, Public Knowledge

A Glut of 3D Printing News

Following on from yesterday’s wonderful Ignite talk, a ten year old boy’s rhapsody for his home 3D printer, I noticed a handful of more stories today from the world of 3D printing. I figured I’d cobble them into a single post rather than leave them out of my daily posts or relegating them to mere, uncommented links.

First is a usable body guitar ready for strings and pickups straight out of the printer. The video is well worth the watch as I doubt you’d realize this was anything other than an interesting looking guitar if you didn’t know it was fabbed up by a 3D printing enthusiast.

Zoybar TOR from Kevin Holmes on Vimeo.

3D printed guitar is fully rockin’, BoingBoing

If you are not lucky enough to possess a home 3D printer yet, the good news is i.materialize is running a special for the next four weeks. Anything you order in that time will qualify for free shipping.

Free shipping on 3D prints for four weeks, BoingBoing

The final story is news that the 3DP Team at the University of Washington’s Solheim Rapid Prototyping Laboratory have made some impressive incremental progress towards the dream of fully self replicating fabricators. In this instance, they’ve cloned all of the parts needed to assemble a variant on the venerable RepRap, Prusa, one of the more accessible versions in terms of ease of assembly. Better yet, using the freely shared fruits of their efforts it is possible to pull off this trick in just thirty minutes.

3D printer that prints itself gets closer to reality, BoingBoing

I have to thank my fellow 3D printing enthusiast, Cory Doctorow, for posting all of these stories today.

Prototype Car Produced with a 3D Printer

According to Slashdot, the car in question is a prototype for a new electric vehicle. Somehow the use of bleeding edge technology for prototyping suits an equally forward looking design.

All exterior components — including the glass panel prototypes — were created using Dimension 3D Printers and Fortus 3D Production Systems at Stratasys’ digital manufacturing service — RedEye on Demand.

There isn’t very much more information than that. It is impressive that there are printers that can work at this scale and produce materials rugged enough to withstand the stress placed on a car, even if it is only a proof of concept. The reasoning for printing the parts was speed and lower cost for iterating on designs. This has me thinking that as consumer and hobby printer continue to scale, maybe we’ll see a re-vamped open source car where the manufacturing issues are partly addressed by 3D printing.

Also how cool would it be if some variation of 3D printing is not only used for a vehicle like this but also enables making the whole car’s environmental footprint as minimal as its power plant? Organic 3D printing does exist in some form although the only printer of which I am aware that fits the bill, CandyFab, is a toy. Is anyone working on biodegrable or recyclable feedstocks for industrial scale 3D printing?

Car Produced With a 3D Printer, Slashdot

feeds | grep links > Desktop 3D Scanner, 64-Bit Flash for Linux, Diaspora Releases Source Code, and More

Another day of light posting between mental heavy lifting while coding for $employer and burning much of my usual end of day hour on a personal hacking project. The latter is an itch that had started to drive me insane, automating my podcast feed management to both reduce the amount of manual work around that task in my podcast work flow and to move the step entirely over to Linux. I’ll post more details of how I manage this later, including links to source.

  • Makerbot 3D scanner
    Bruce Sterling at Wired points out a new offering from the desktop printing and home fabrication innovators at Makerbot, a desktop 3D scanner. While it is likely to have similar limitations as its printer counterpart, it along with free and open source 3D design software completes the trifecta for not just ginning up your own tangible parts and goods but to designing and customizing them in the first place.
  • 3D printing commercial air craft parts, Make
  • IBM patents choose your own adventure movies, Slashdot
  • Adobe releases 64-bit Flash, including Linux version
    I’ve only had some minor trouble with Flash under Linux but this beta, as Slashdot points out, should eliminate all kinds of jiggery-pokery most 64-bit Linux users have to go through. I wish we didn’t have to keep supporting Flash, either with official builds or via free and open one offs but for online video it is still effectively king.
  • Diaspora releases source code
    The link is directly to their site which also includes a simple screen shot. I haven’t had time to download and test but have read elsewhere that this is really pre-alpha quality code. I would suggest holding off unless you are willing to help test and maybe even send along patches.
  • Law suit over another post-cookie tracking technique, Wired

feeds | grep links > Mozilla Cloud Editor Renamed, Google to Simplify Privacy Policies, Brazil May Legalize File Sharing, and More

I am still on the road, returning from Dragon*Con in Atlanta. There four more hours between me and DC, which will be tackled tomorrow, bright and early. My blogging should return to normal either tomorrow or Wednesday.

TCLP 2010-08-15 News

This is news cast 222, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

In the intro, letting everyone know Dragon*Con is coming up. I’ll be taking a little more time this year off from the show to prepare for my travel there. There will be no news cast on either September 29th or the 5th. There will be no feature cast on the 1st and possibly the 8th, depending on what recordings I come back with and how much work they need.

This week’s security alerts are first Android SMS trojan and a vulnerability in OpenSSL 1.0.

In this week’s news artificial life evolves a basic memory, John Doe who challenged the FBI freed to speak, touch screens open to smudge attack, and the state of 3D printing. The book I mention in the a-life segment is “Complexity” by Mitch Waldrop.

Following up this week just the announcement of what Google and Verizon were up to. There was an op-ed from the two CEOs though I don’t think it added anything. There was also a ton of analysis and commentary though I am going to recommend that from EFF’s Cindy Cohn. Not surprisingly, Google has already posted a defense.


View the detailed show notes online. You can also grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

3D Printing Using Plastic Trash

The idea of being able to run a 3D printer at home is immensely exciting. Having to purchase expense, fiddly feedstock for such a miracle devices not so much. It isn’t hard to imagine the shenanigans of today’s laser and ink jet makers writ large when the ability to print small volume plastic doodads is common place.

Now replace that stress inducing image with one of you pouring your plastic recyclables into a hopper attached to your desktop 3D printer. Make points to some work by students at Victoria University in Wellington that could lead the way to that direct re-use future. Details are scant though it appears like there is an intervening step of grinding HDPE plastics, similar to the pelletizing in industrial recycling I imagine.

Turning plastic trash into 3d printable material, Make

feeds | grep links > Self Replicating MakerBot, AI Predicting Manhole Explosions, Mousing without the Mouse, and More

  • Self replicating MakerBot
    Via Nat’s Four Short Links on O’Reilly Radar. As he notes, highly appropriate as MakerBot started as a modified RepRap which was all about being self reproducible.
  • AI used to predict manhole explosions in NYC
    I had no idea the scale of this problem was worth harnessing machine learning to tackle but according to Slashdot, apparently it is. It sounds to me like a pretty big multivariate analysis depending on pretty laboriously collected data and observations from the field. Regardless of the risk of a heavy, iron manhole cover being ejected in a gout of flame and gas, the idea to use an AI to help stay on top of the mammoth maintenance challenge for a city as old as New York greatly appeals to me.
  • NetApp threatens sellers of appliances running ZFS
    What the Slashdot summary glosses over but the linked articles make a bit more clear is that there is a history to these complaints to goes back a ways. The same company apparently repeatedly threatened Sun for much the same reason that they are now threatening NAS maker Coraid. I find it hard to credit that there isn’t a less fraught file system offering similar capabilities originating more directly from the FLOSS world.
  • Mousing without a mouse
    Priya Ganapati describes an MIT project from the creator of Sixth Sense, Pranav Mistry. It definitely seems to be strongly related, using commodity hardware to track your mousing hand as you pantomime the gestures you’ve become used to in order to drive your computer without actually needing a mouse. Given the rate at which scroll wheels get gummed up, I would gladly invest many times more than the $20 figure quoted to never have to clean any part of a mouse ever again.
  • Incremental update to OLPC XO to include multitouch screen
    Via Hacker News.
  • Skype’s encryption is partially reverse engineered
  • Fan remake of Ultima VI released
  • Blizzard backs down on requiring real names in its forums