Monday, August 07, 2006

Digital-Material Convergence #1

The books The Long Tail and The Wealth of Networks have recently been released. Both books are about production in the Information Age. Both books focus mainly on information content such as text, audio, video, and games. Yet, these books are incomplete IMO. The reason is that they do not talk much (if at all) about how this will effect material production. The usage of the new information economy to produce physical objects is not something that is far into the future (although it seems so), but something that is happening today with fab labs, and for more than 15 years with rapid-prototyping. In fact, personal fabrication is where the personal computer revolution was in 1975. If Moore's Law applies to fab labs, then nanotech fabbers will become widespread home appliances by the 2030s, and able to manufacture pretty much anything. There are a few articles and blog entries about these machines.
If you had the necessary raw materials, then you could construct anything that you wanted. With this kind of technology, there can be widespread material abundance among humans. And with extraterrestrial mining and recycling, the amount of raw materials is practically infinite.

Today, we can begin living the fab future. Even though it is not yet available in our homes, we can still use the technology. eMachineshop is a new company that makes this technology available to anyone who has a computer. You download the CAD software, design your product using it, send in the design file, and in about a couple of weeks, the product will be shipped to you. It's sister company Rapid PCB can be used to product circuit boards. This is an engineer's paradise. I'm currently in college to be an engineer, and I cannot wait to produce my first product using fabrication technology. Kevin Carson of the Mutualist Blog has two entries on this.
You could use the fabbing ability of eMachineshop to build you own store with self-designed products. Or, you could use a Freshmeat or Sourceforge for fab designs. Using it, you could design your own product, use someone else's design, or improve upon the design of someone else, just like when developing and using open source software.

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