Sunday, August 21, 2011

Plants and Printers

I recently subscribed to Thingiverse, a website for sharing blueprints of 3D objects. Anyone with a desktop 3d printer (and the number who do is growing) can print out an octopus, a Lego part, a figurine, a replacement part for a dishwasher... In an appearance on the Colbert Report, Bre Pettis showed off a couple of Colbert/octopus hybrids.

Watch on

So I was thinking of Thingiverse as 3d clip art when I first subscribed. Then I saw an ever-so-simple innovation that'd just been uploaded to the Thingiverse: a plant tag, one of those labels greenhouses use to make sure you buy the right petunia.

Thingiverse Page

So then I'm thinking what it'd be like for a greenhouse to print their own tags. Each greenhouse could have their own custom shape, style, not limited by the shipper's easiest packing or a factory's minimum sale. Why not have special tags for holidays, and birthdays? And while we're at it, why not make your own planters (the little plastic things people hang and plant their plants in)? You could have star shapes, or wavy patterns custom-designed by landscapers. Computer-assisted design changed architecture forever - you can now have buildings made up of thousands of panels, all with slightly different shapes. 3D printing puts that in the pocket of any small business.

These printers are rare now, but the number of open source hardware businesses and hackerspaces using them is growing.

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