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Home » 3D Printing – The Physics of Objects: Emily Whiting at TEDxBeaconStreet (Transcript)

3D Printing – The Physics of Objects: Emily Whiting at TEDxBeaconStreet (Transcript)

Emily Whiting – TRANSCRIPT

A few years ago on a trip to China, I came across this toy. It’s made of bamboo and it looks like a dragonfly. And this one has a secret. When you put it on the tip of its nose, it performs this surprising balancing act. It seems to float. What I find fascinating about this toy is that it’s not the way it looks that’s interesting, but rather what it can do. That when placed in this precise way it seems to come alive in my hand.

Now I’m a computer scientist and what this means is that I spend most of my time thinking about ideas and objects that exist only in the virtual world, behind a computer screen. And around the same time that I found this toy I was learning about 3D printers. Now 3D printers were a revelation to me because they gave me this opportunity to take objects out of the virtual world and into the physical. So I could finally take a digital object, and by 3D printing it, hold it in my hand. And the question that I asked was: could I also create objects like this little dragonfly that have a secret ability? So many of you in this room are probably familiar with 3D printers.

They’re an additive manufacturing technique that allow anyone regardless of your skill level to create perfectly crafted and complex 3D objects. And now this has had an enormous impact on the design and manufacturing industry. We’ve seen a explosion of complex forms in sculpture, fashion design, prosthetics, and even if you do not have a background in art history or design, there’s a wealth of objects available online. You can simply go to an online database and choose a shape and press print. So 3D printing has brought manufacturing to the masses.

But I believe that there’s still something beyond these complex appearances, that there’s an untapped potential in the way we design objects for 3D printing. Let me show you the first model that I tried to print. Here we have a horse downloaded from an online database. It captures in 3D this classic dynamic pose that we see in the photograph in 2D. Here’s what happened when I tried to 3D print it.

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