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March 9th, 2013 at 4:50 pm

The “magically” transforming 3D printer world

This piece entitled Wind was created on a computer using Photoshop tools that mimicked acrylic painting. Raymond Alvarez is the artist who is exploring 3D printing for production of his many art images.

By Raymond Alvarez – Artist/Ruby programmer

Forgive me for being an optimist amid all the trending gloom, but 3D printing could lift the economy as well as bring about impactful and meaningful change. Whether you hate energy companies, or not, my simple analysis will give you a smile. Energy companies will be getting fewer consumer dollars. But that’s just the start.
Did you know that you can write a computer program to fire a canon? The demonstration I witnessed involved a T-shirt and a “potato gun.” Potato guns have been around since I was in college (more than 20 years ago). Basically, it is a plastic pipe that has been converted to fire tennis balls.

The military won’t be interested. They wouldn’t be impressed by the gun I saw. It was just one T-shirt gently floating on Boulder’s October air, but it hit me right between the temples. An armload or two of cotton ammunition found its way to a recent Ruby conference. I’m happy for the folks who watched the demonstration because what that demo did for me is fire up brain cells.

Last December, I graduated from the Davinci Coders program. I know a little Ruby on Rails. I know enough to start doing some interesting projects of my own…

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Developing software is just one of the many things that grads can do with Ruby. The Davinci Institute in Louisville, CO, is one among several institutions that have launched salvos at the huge need in the software industry for programmers. This is where I will mention that Davinci will have an additional offering this spring. An advanced course will be available in a few weeks and will be taught by another excellent instructor from the industry – Jason Noble, who is well-known in the Ruby community. A link is provided below.

If you can fire canons, of course, you can automate other functions and devices. This is another chapter in the continuing story of computer chips becoming ubiquitous in our environment. By all indications, that is a trend that is going to grow and grow. We already have eyewear that will serve as monitors, thanks to Google. Voice activated commands have been in the market for years, thanks to Microsoft. Automated homes with security systems run by software and accessed by mobile devices are here, too. Ruby programmers already have finished work in security.

Combine programming with other developments in the works and the world begins looking very different. It doesn’t take much imagination to make a bold prediction that merchants will transform (and maybe downsize) their brick-and-mortar shops as 3D printer use spreads and the technology incorporates more and more materials. Metal and plastic already make up 3D print runs. What lofty and elusive goals may finally be available is left to your imagination. You might want to watch for the Davinci Institute’s next inventor showcase.

The 3D printer is drawing considerable interest. You not only can buy a desktop version, but there are numerous printers appearing in shared business spaces as well as a store front. There is now a shop in Denver. http://the3dprintingstore.com/?p=767

Why is 3D printer use growing? For one thing, manufacturing a unique item is possible. The fact that you can print out an object from a computer drawing for far less cost with less waste and a print job can be turned around quickly, that makes 3D printing a guaranteed part of the economy. Companies that need to test prototypes are already hiring shops and paying thousands. Other users may line up at the printer to send parts across great distances, including space. You may already have heard about putting a 3D printer on the moon or at the International Space Station. On the moon, an astronaut would be able to select from native materials. If you have checked Kickstarter lately, you might have noticed that inventors have embraced 3D printing. Artists – including yours truly – are lining up, too.

Proliferation of 3D will be driven to a large degree by businesses that have not yet addressed developing a distribution department. No UPS. No USPS and FedX.

Not a lot of imagination is necessary to envision the Internet paired with 3D printing transforming the commercial landscape. Can we raise the standard of living at the same time? Drawing on my economics knowledge from college, I would expect dramatic changes if 3D printing succeeds in eliminating half the over-the-road transportation of goods. How much of train transit is done for shipping finished goods? Even some material shipping may not happen. There is an architect working on constructing a 3D printed office building. Pulling vehicles off the road and tracks at a time when oil and gas production is increasing domestically paints a very different picture of the future. Lower costs, and you free up money. That’s money that can be applied to other uses.

Where will that extra money go? For the massive demographic headed into retirement, I would hope it’s more than enough to keep them fed and in reasonably good health. More might travel offsetting some of the lost energy consumption. But, there’s always some give and take.

To be sure, more money will chase goods – that won’t be fewer. Imagine downloading a dinner from Paris or one of my favorite places on the globe, Bamberg, Germany. (Sauerbraten to die for!) Thankfully for someone like me, an artist and programmer, money will also flow to art, movies and music. When I’m not programming or painting, I write. From my perspective, the emerging 3D printed world looks like a magnificent plum on the vine.

The next time you fire off your potato gun via laptop, you can justify your act by saying you’re not taking out targets. But you are spreading seeds for a better world.

For visions of an evolving world as well as information on computer programming course offerings, start at this link: http://www.davinciinstitute.com

This week at DaVinci Institute: Local artist Mike Hamers gave a talk on branding and iconography. You can catch his next talk at Boulder Writers Group workshop on April 20. The workshop runs from 1-5 p.m at the Meadows Branch of the Boulder Library on Baseline in Boulder. The workshop will focus on Photoshop tips, info graphics and various graphic file types, including png and jpg. Hamers is an award-winning graphic artist and owner of Lightspeed Design and Branding Group.

Raymond Alvarez of Longmont, CO, is a former newspaper writer-turned Ruby on Rails programmer. Alvarez has an interest in science and visual art, particularly Photoshop and Illustrator surrealistic imagery. His work is planned for display this year. His work can be previewed at the Ascending Art Facebook page, or the Raymond Alvarez page on Pinterest . Facebook: BolderRealEstateTeam

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