Having started two different blog posts for PersonaliZe this week, they are now on the back burner for future posts, and what you are going to get is a conversation I had with my son (7 years old) this very morning, which brought me a true moment of clarity.
The setting is my living room, where the majority of our 3D printing collection is on display (not the jewellery!), and I was pottering around in the kitchen as we discussed his day and if he had everything he needed for school and football practice. I had noticed that as he spoke, he was picking up various models, which he does quite a lot, but usually without comment.
But this morning, out of the blue, the following conversation took place:
Jamie: I wish we had a 3D printer!
Me: Do you sweetheart? Well, you know, we could, there are 3D printers that you can have at home now.
Jamie: Well can we get one then? You know all about 3D printing, why haven’t we got one?
Me: Because it’s not an easy thing to do just yet you have to be really clever to make the printer work properly and you have to be able to design the parts that you want to print.
Jamie: Design? You mean like draw?
Me: Yes, it’s like drawing, but on the computer and it has to be in 3 dimensions.
Jamie: 3 dimensions means not flat doesn’t it?
Me: Yes, sort of, and you have to be able to design the products you want to print and make sure that the design is actually printable. Although, there are some websites where you can download finished 3D designs, that someone else has drawn, and print them.
Jamie: That’s a good idea – what sort of things?
Me: All sorts of things actually, I can show you after school if you like.
[He sits thinking as he plays with Objet’s multi-material car and holds it up as he says:]
Jamie: Can we get this?
Me: I could probably get that 3D file if I asked nicely, the problem is though, that none of the 3D printers that we could afford to have in the house will print out a product like that.
Jamie: What do you mean?
Me: Well the machine that printed that out is about the size of your bed, costs hundreds of thousands of pounds, and it needs fully trained engineers to run it.
Jamie: Daddy is an engineer – couldn’t he do it?
Me: Daddy is an electrical engineer, honey, it’s very different and besides, we don’t have hundreds of thousands of pounds to buy one anyway!
Jamie: I suppose. So what sort of 3D printer could we get?
Me: Ummm, we don’t really have time now, but I can show you some pictures later. They are about the size of the microwave though, they still cost quite a lot of money, about £1000, and they print parts like this.
[I hand him a white Dalek printed on a RapMan].
Jamie: I don’t like that one – it’s rubbish!
Me: It’s not rubbish, it’s actually very clever, but I understand what you mean. It’s not as good as the car is it?
Jamie: No. And I don’t want a 3D printer at home until it can do this.
[He holds up the car.]
Then he went to brush his teeth. While he was away, I was thinking how amazing it was that I had just had this conversation with a 7 year old, and yet it exactly reflected where we are with 3D printing. It was then that I decided to share it. Hence when he came back downstairs, I asked if I could take the picture. He said yes, if it would make him famous!!