If IKEA married Wikipedia, their love child might be Wikihouse, an open-source set of architectural components you can tweak with Sketchup and assemble with a 3d printer. Other recent developments in physical computing: you can now print your mp3s onto “vinyl,” model 3d objects just by shooting them with a special camera, and stream your air quality to the Web with an arduino.
Here’s a roundup of dispatches from the frontline of physical computing. Let’s start with Wikihouse’s Alastair Parvin
“The idea is to make it possible for anyone to go online and access a freely shared library of 3D models which they can download and adapt in Sketchup,” he says in today’s talk. “Almost at the click of a switch, they can generate a series of cutting files, which allow them in effect to print out the parts from a house using a CNC machine and a standard sheet material like plywood. The parts are all numbered, and basically what you end up with is a really big IKEA kit.”
Test your air with the Arduino-capable Ambient board:
The Smart Citizen Kit is an Open-Source platform that comprises 3 technological layers: a hardware device, a website and online API, and a mobile app….
The first layer is a piece of hardware comprised by two printed-circuit boards: an interchangeable daughterboard or shield, and an arduino-compatible data-processing board. We have nicknamed the shield developed for this campaign ‘The Ambient Board.’ As the name suggests, it carries sensors that measure air composition (CO and NO2), temperature, light intensity, sound levels, and humidity. Once it’s set up, the ambient board is able to stream data measured by the sensors over Wi-Fi using the FCC-certified, wireless module on the data-processing board. The device’s low power consumption allows for placing it on balconies and windowsills. Power to the device can be provided by a solar panel and/or battery. All the design files (schematics and PCB layout) for this Open-Source, Arduino-compatible device are available on our Github repository.
Turn your mp3s into physical records with a 3d printer! Sounds like crap, but Edison would be proud.
A few months back, I wrote about how I used a 3D printer to transform any mp3 into a physical record. Though all the documentation for that project is available here, and the 3D models could potentially be printed through an online fabrication service, I knew that the barrier to entry for normal people interested in trying out the process themselves was prohibitively high. With this project I wanted to try to extend the idea of digitally fabricated records to use relatively common and affordable machines and materials so that (hopefully) more people can participate, experiment, and actually use all this documentation I’ve been writing.
- Complexity costs the same as simplicity.
- Variety is free
- No assembly required
- Zero lead time
If you can use a point-and-shoot Nikon, you’ll find the Lynx even easier to use. Instead of outputing 2D images, it produces 3D models of whatever you point it at.
Amidst this explosion of new ideas and innovations, Autodesk CEO Carl Bass strikes a word of caution. He points out that unlike bits, 3d printed objects are dependent on physical stuff to replicate.
That said, he seems perfectly willing to gush about 3d printing’s bright future.
I think two important areas to watch here are printing electronics — i.e., not just objects but logic and function — and the burgeoning field of bioprinting. The latter represents some of the most exciting work employing 3-D printers. For example, Dr. Anthony Atala of Wake Forest University has pioneered work that includes the successful printing and implantation of human urethras. San Diego-based Organovo prints functional human tissue that can be used for medical research and therapeutic applications. And companies like Craig Venter’s as well as Cambrian Genomics (which I have a small personal investment in) are printing DNA — yes, DNA! — one base pair at a time.
Another important direction in the 3-D printing landscape involves the shift to architectural-scale 3-D printing. Examples include the work of Ron Rael at U.C. Berkeley, who has been working with new, low-cost organic materials and the work of Boris Behrokh Khoshnevis at the University of Southern California who has been experimenting with 3-D printing full-size buildings.
The European Space Agency and Foster + Partners have teamed up to design a moonbase structure 3-D printed with Monolite UK’s D-Shape, though the beauty of their concept is that it would draw entirely on materials found on the moon. This is important since it helps push the materials limitations of 3-D printing from what is supplied to what is found. And someone out there has already hacked a 3-D printer to use only waste materials — imagine the possibilities of using 3-D printing for true recycling and reuse.