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Thursday, February 29, 2024

3D "Printers" - More Than Meets the Eye

Spooky, the kid is a table.

Digitally Remastered from 2010.

Let's cut to the chase. 

When most of us hear "3D printer," we don't think of a printer; we think of the replicators from "Star Trek." Yet, during a visit to one of the top design schools in the world (and a current client), I stumbled upon a machine using an Epson printhead to do just that.

Surprisingly, I found myself interrupting someone's lunch to get a tour that included this technological marvel nestled beside the woodshop. My curiosity skyrocketed. Without any previous exposure to 3D printing, I bombarded my impromptu guide with questions about how it works and its use by students.

The first thing that caught my attention was the term "printing" used to describe the process, and second, my guide's charm didn't hurt either.

My last campus visit was decades ago, focused on engineering and business, far from the art world's embrace. Yet, here I was, stepping into Otis College of Art and Design in LA, my curiosity piqued.

Business Matters

Otis had just streamlined its print operations, reducing hundreds of devices to less than two dozen, a significant cost-saving move. IT managed the connected printers, but, bafflingly, Facilities handled the copiers. It's a common but outdated practice where tech decisions fall to the same folks managing maintenance bids, leading to outdated equipment and emergency measures like a "Red Phone" for copier breakdowns.

Setting that aside, the school's open classrooms and the concept of nude models (though none were present during my visit) illustrated an open and creative learning environment. Despite my focus on efficient print management services running smoothly for the client, the discovery of 3D printing at Otis stole the show.

Holding a 3D-printed plastic spoon, I marveled at the simplicity yet brilliance of the process. Designs are layered from a powdery substance, building up to create solid, tangible objects. The precision and quality of these items, some looking like they were metal or chrome, were impressive.

This experience was a stark reminder of the evolving nature of Managed Print Services (MPS) and the challenge in defining its boundaries.

Reflecting on the visit, it struck me how technology like 3D printing blurs the lines between traditional and futuristic manufacturing. It's a reverse CatScan, turning digital slices into solid objects.

As I pondered over the marvel of 3D printing, I couldn't help but recall the iconic "Star Trek" request for "Tea, Earl Grey, hot." It seems the future might be closer than we think. Let's talk about how technology is reshaping our world in ways we never imagined.

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