When did you see your first 3D printer?

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When I first saw one, it was the original cubic Darwin design, and the guy who built it assured me that no layperson would be capable of building one. I tried not to lose any enthusiasm but for me, as just an average Joe, I guess I felt somewhat disheartened and did not go home straight away and start ordering parts. 

It wasn’t too long though before I did decide to buy a kit and give it a go on my own – this was by the time the triangular Mendel design had been brought in and I spent weeks struggling through building a Huxley all on my own. As frustrating as it was – I had zero experience with electrical wiring, soldering or stepper motors not to mention thermoplastics – but I had read a lot so I knew it was possible and carried on despite the Darwin owner’s earlier warnings.

As was customary back in those days, the first print I made on the Huxley was a shot glass, with which to toast my new creation’s ability to create stuff, and I was extremely proud. I didn’t have any engineering knowledge, other than that which I garnered from helping my Mum build a verandah a few years earlier, and from reading a book called “Why things don’t fall down”, so needless to say, the print quality left a lot to be desired. The construction was similarly slapdash and looking back I am happily surprised that I was able to make anything with it at all.

Luckily I had grown up doing a fair bit of 3D modeling so I could measure something in my house and click up a design that would fit into place once it came off the heatbed. The feeling of empowerment you get from being able to manufacture your own designs is something special. Humans are makers – we would have gone extinct on the savannah if we didn’t start using tools and every one of us deserves to touch the fruits of our imagination in our hands. It might not be too long before 3D printer therapy starts to be a thing, just because the feeling of creation that comes with it is something that can heal the soul.

Now that I’ve been building 3D printers and printing objects for years, I do worry about the psychological impacts of stopping creating. Knowing that I have a worldwide community who are also working towards a future where we create what we need locally is something that keeps me motivated. If we can grow the plastics we use and we can recycle locally what we need, a fossil fuel free future is possible, and we don’t all need to stop driving our cars right away. Every time you 3D print (at least using PLA, ABS is fossil derived itself) you are already adapting to the challenge of a warming planet and you should feel good about it.   

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