Week 6: 3D Printing

After spending a semester in a graduate seminar for digital archeology, I bought into the concept of digital printed surrogates of ancient artifacts.  For one, a 3D print allows archeologists to manipulate the object ways that would never be possible with the original. Most of the time, archeologists have very minimal time and access to original artifacts.  With digital fabrication, over time the printed copy may become more valuable to researchers than the original.

With this being said, I truly see the value in digital fabrication for some sectors, like the archeology example I just used.  My archeology class visited the 3D printing lab at USF’s engineering building. We were told that they print nearly everything in non-biodegradable plastic.  For this reason, I had a hard time conceiving value beyond printed objects needed for scholarly research. However, Greenfield’s chapter shifted my ideology on this subject.  

For starters, Greenfield suggests that digital fabrication could actually help solve our problems with sustainability and trash.  I see his argument of his as threefold. First, if we use biodegradable materials for everyday needs we’d have unlimited materials.  Second, less waste would occur from production, with the leftover materials being reused. Third, we could print broken pieces and fix existing objects, therefore also reducing waste.  If and when our society reaches this point, it seems like digital fabrications could be a great way of reducing our trash problem.

The main objection to digital printing is the access to one-time-use guns.  While Greenfield explores this issue, he really doesn’t settle the concerns around it.  He agrees, it’s a risk and it’s scary, but he doesn’t offer a plan to deal with it, nor does he offer an argument that we should do what’s better for the greater amount of people.  Instead he offers this prolepsis without properly refuting it.


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