3D printed Hungry Hungry Clarksons.
From Grumpy Cat to the Success Kid, 3D printers are bringing a whole new dimension to meme culture, by giving people the power to print out their favourite memes and enjoy them in real life. Most recently, following a spectacular performance at the Super Bowl earlier this year, a man from Florida began selling 3D printing templates of the world’s new favourite dancing fish – Left Shark. Katy Perry, or more specifically her lawyers, subsequently told him to stop selling the 3D printing templates. While it’s important that intellectual property is kept safe and that people are not unfairly profiting from the hard work of others (in fact, the Left Shark design was later distributed online for free), it is surely only natural that people will want to design and create things they feel passionate about – especially if those things turn in to online sensations and much-loved memes.
The creation of 3D printed Left Sharks shows just how fun and reactive 3D printing can be. One of the reasons why 3D printing is so exciting is because it gives people the power to bring their inspiration and creativity into the real world, just like we see people when they react to stories by sharing and adapting images online. For example, at Robox, we’re all big fans of Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear, and were naturally saddened to see that Jeremy couldn’t get the steak he deserved after a hard day of filming earlier this month. This is why we used one of our printers to create a special version of Hungry Hungry Hippos, which enabled people to feed Jeremy by playing Hungry Hungry Clarksons.
3D printing a hungry Clarkson on the Robox.
Of course this was just a modification to the original game (you can’t 3D print the whole set) but by creating a customised version of Jeremy’s head as an adaptation to the game, we were able to react to something timely and create something fun that people could enjoy for free.
This is how 3D printing has the power to be genuinely transformative, because people today can be more creative and make or modify new things which previously did not exist. Personally, I’ve always hoped that 3D printing will inspire an entirely new generation of makers – those who feel empowered to create and experiment with their own designs.
However, looking back at the 3D printed Left Shark episode, this show shows that trademarks and IP law will have to adjust in order to stay relevant. After all, it is clear now that Katy Perry’s camp wanted to retain control of the design - they have just started selling a rather fetching Left Shark Onesie. As 3D printing moves ever more into the mainstream, consumers and brands alike will increasingly value the design of the object, rather than the object itself, much how we now value the music file rather than the CD it might used to have been sold on.
Clearly though, 3D printing is about so much more than just someone 3D printing wild dancing sharks in their bedroom. If it wasn’t then leading analyst house Gartner wouldn’t have put out its latest predictions that worldwide 3D printer shipments will almost double by the end of this year. 3D printing memes are just a good example of the spontaneous creativity which widespread 3D printer usage could unleash. When everyone can bring their favourite things ideas to life through experimentation and sheer passion, I won’t be surprised if we see even more 3D printed objects going viral, much as videos and memes do today.
But you don’t need to look to the far future to see the huge impact that household 3D printers can have. Ask any manufacturer or engineer and they will tell you about the influence that 3D printing has already had when it comes to prototyping, allowing them to cheaply and easily make one off models and test ideas. This has led many to herald a new age in manufacturing where the barriers to entry disappear almost entirely.
Additionally, 3D printing has huge potential when it comes to education, inspiring a new generation of makers and kids with creative vision. Moving beyond 3D printed memes and toys, these new young makers will grow up with the skills in the future to make anything they want, whether its replacement dishwasher parts, personalised phone cases, jewellery or even brand new objects entirely. I’ve been speaking to a lot of schools recently about the potential of 3D printing in education, and while adults often question what they would print on a 3D printer, children instantly grasp its possibilities. Their designs might not always work at first, but through experimentation they’re soon creating well-crafted and genuinely inspirational designs.
Success kid meme.
It’s for these reasons that we designed Robox with ease-of-use-first, so that those who want to can simply ‘plug-in and print’. Whether you’re the parent of a creative young child or the owner of a small business looking to quickly trial several new prototypes, what you want is for your 3D printer to just work. You don’t want to spend hours correcting the bed height and learning about the melting points of different materials. You just want to load your design and click print.
As 3D printers become increasingly common in home offices, children’s bedrooms, and garden shed workshops around the world, we hope that this will unleash a new wave of creativity so that more and more consumers become like Left Shark, not conforming to the strict choreography of big corporations, but instead creating and printing their own inspired and personalised designs. And through that, we’ll start to see the most popular memes bursting from out of the computer screen and onto people’s desks, as they bring the latest trends and sensations to life.