I am looking for traces of our society. And I find this author and developer of software here in this city: Dr. Christian Siefkes. His knowledge is a common: he writes about “kitchen fabrication”, I miss the production spaces in our multiplicity. Ava, come back soon.
“We produce in the kitchen or in the bathroom. Most people have some fabrication bots
at home. The popular 3D printer/mill combines a 3D printer with a computer-controlled
milling machine. 3D printers produce three-dimensional objects by printing multiple layers
of bioplastics, metal, or ceramic on top of each other, until the desired object is complete.
Within several hours, typical home 3D printers can print objects up to 50 by 40 by 30
centimeters large. That’s big enough to print most durable households items, whether
crockery, cutlery, games and toys, or tools. Electrical and electronic appliances are made in
the same way, except for the actual electric or lighting elements. It’s also common to print
replacement parts if something breaks down or doesn’t fit.
Furniture and other big things are assembled from parts that can be made separately.
Frequently, they are partially composed of prefabricated plates or beams in order to save
production time. Computer-controlled (CNC) mills cut plates to size and insert openings
and cavities. They can also engrave inscriptions or images.
3D printing uses less energy than most older manufacturing processes, since it only
heats the used material for a short time in order to melt it. (To prepare the typically used
bioplastics for printing, they must be extruded into filament and rolled onto a spool, but
this preprocessing step doesn’t take much energy either.) All the used material becomes
part of the finished product, nothing is wasted or required for molds or other special tooling.
Milling is more wasteful, as parts of the material are removed. But it’s usually possible
to re-use removed material. Since the basic setup of 3D printers and milling machines is
similar, both are often combined in a single unit in order to save space.
People who want to make something, whether for personal use or as a gift, search online
for suitable designs. The widespread “thing-get” program knows almost all the designs out
there and offers multiple options for searching, by keyword or by criteria such as material,
size, popularity. All designs are free source: everybody has the right to use them, to modify
them as desired, and to share them with others (in original or modified form). Most designs
are parametric: you can adjust parameters that control size, used materials, color, and other properties of the defined object. This further improves the chances of finding something
among the huge mass of shared designs, and turning it into a thing that suits your needs.
If you don’t find anything appropriate for your needs, it’s usually at least possible to find
a design that makes a suitable starting point for further adaption. Often you will also find
other people that help you create your own variant, either online or in a decenter near you.
Others who join forces may be driven by the desire to get such a thing for themselves, or they
may just enjoy the challenge or look for something useful to do. Most designs thus become
collective creations, just like software and other intellectual works. Once a new or improved
variant is ready, you share it to allow others to benefit too.
Originally published in German in the collection “Etwas fehlt” – Utopie, Kritik und
Glücksversprechen edited by the jour fixe initiative berlin (edition assemblage, Münster, 2013, pages 255–272).