Tuesday, October 2, 2012

If you think downloading movies is a problem, what about Starbucks coffees?

Well, the digital revolution continues unabated. Many ripple effects have been felt -- and the movie / music industries will tell you, ease of copying digital content has wreaked havoc on them (or not). What if physical objects could be replicated, and, if an original object, without the permission of the designer? That's not such a "what if" -- the advent of three-dimenstional printing is upon us.
The basics of 3d printing – and digital fabrication in general – is that the printer takes a digital model and turns it into a real, physical object. The designs are represented as files which describe the surface geometry of a 3D object. Sort of an AutoCAD-on-sterioids approach to describing something. There are a couple of ways of getting a file to print with: use an existing file; design a model yourself in CAD software; or scan a real-life object. But what if you replicate something someone else has rights to? Over at The Economist,this article captures the essence of the conundrum. While you peruse it, download a cup of Starbucks coffee, and enjoy. Or at least the mug to hold your double-tall, extra foam latte.

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