3d printing…like a hot glue gun?

3d printers may not be a pervasive technology at this moment, but the tide is changing. Awareness of the technology is growing . People are beginning to see the potential of 3d printing. This is especially true when you talk about 3d printing compared to older technologies. And while analogies may not be exact, they are useful.

The most common, and unprompted, comparison is with a hot melt glue gun. When you start explaining the extrusion process people lock onto that comparison. And thats enough to begin to make an unknown process knowable.

It is important, I think, to take technologies out into “the wild”. By talking to people we can understand how they put new tools into a familiar context. And from that foundation we can build the discussion, later by layer.

So I spent three sweltering days in a large tin shed as farmers and farm families, wandered by. At least half the folks stopped to look, and from that half another half engaged in conversation. And if I had to guess, I’d estimate that at least 25 conversations were more than just polite curiosity.

It is easy to preach to the choir. But if we have hope in technology as a tool to make the world better, more humane and human, the easy conversations aren’t the ones we need to have.

Talking about 3d printing at Empire Farm Days

3d printing at Empire Farm Days

3d printing at Empire Farm Days

Empire Farm Days are a big deal for many farmers across New York State. 3 days in August filled with shiny new farm equipment, educational programs and heat. What better place to set up a 3d printer and talk to folks as they wander by.

I did something similar last year, at the State Fair, and the novelty of a 3d printer sparked a lot of talk. Farm Days attendees are a different, more focused, slice of the population. But there is some overlap between the two events. Last year, the printer was a genuine novelty. Today, at Farm Days, I talk with more than a couple folks who had seen them in action. Awareness of 3d printers seemed much higher, often as something a school or library has.

The awareness didn’t diminish the conversations, though. And several times the talk brushed against the issue of automation and job loss. There is fascination with technology but also ongoing fears of job loss and other issues. Not surprising, and an opening into deeper conversations.

After spending 9 hours in a hot, often crowded, metal shed I’m a bit tired. But, being able to talk with people about technology is always worthwhile. And I get to do it again tomorrow.