There is a little thrill in watching something you designed get built, layer by layer, by a 3D printer.
But it’s a slow thrill.
3D printing, even for a small object, can take a loooooong time. If you’re just trying to make a little widget on a one-off basis, (say a piece for a board game or something), a little wait while one strip of plastic is extruded upon another is no big deal. But for professional designers, speed is, doctoral student Stefanie Mueller says, “mission critical.”
According to Mueller, designers often allow their plans to print overnight, so as to waste less time. But that limits them to “a single iteration per day.” Over a whole design process, that really gums up the works. “A typical iteration process when refining a prototype easily adds up to a week—even though the actual design work may not have taken longer than a day,” she wrote to me. The whole process gets bottlenecked at the 3D printer.
This is why Mueller built faBrickator, a program that marries 3D printing with a building material beloved around the world: Legos. Using faBrickator, designers can sub Legos into their designs, and only print small pieces.
Read more. [Image: Stefanie Mueller]