The age of digital fabrication is upon us and there are hundreds of articles that will tell you that it will surely change the world. My current research project called “Being the Machine” explores how the design of digital fabricators could be different and explores new possibilities for interacting with fabrication and computer numeric controlled (CNC) technologies. My approach designs for fabrication as a kind of performance rather than a tool for accomplishing a given task. As a performance, all parts of the system become aesthetically meaningful: the movements of the human, the movements of the machine, the objects that are produced, the contexts in which they are placed, and the materials used for development. The system I am building consists of a laser guide that draws G-Code paths that the user follows by hand. What this system does is guide someone in building any object in the way that a 3D printer would. This system allows us to fabrication in ways that are currently difficult with existing 3D printers as it is completely portable and the user has a wide range of choices about what materials to use in fabrication (sand at the beach, snow in the mountains, polenta in the kitchen etc.). Additionally, since fabrication is tied to a human rather than a machine, the user is free to explore different ways to “break” the system in order to reveal new aesthetic choices. For instance, the material properties of the objects one is building with can be unpredictable and subject to environmental factors (wind, rain, etc). In the spirit of indeterminacy, these “unknowns” can be productive ways to expose new aesthetic possibilities. By building and studying this system, I hope to reveal new insights about the way in which value is constructed in fabricated objects and the role fabrication might play in someones social and emotional life. I am currently developing this project as Graduate Student Researcher and an Artist-In-Residence at Instructables/Autodesk. You can become your own 3D printer if you follow the instructions at: http://www.instructables.com/id/Become-Your-Own-3D-Printer/
It is a bit easier to understand the mechanics of system when it is used in two dimensions. This video shows how the system can be used with charcoal to produce 2D drawings from mechanical tools paths. If you replace the charcoal with something with volume, your drawing would end up as a 3D model rather than a 2D model.
While the current system is portable and scalable, my ultimate vision catalyzes portability and performance by creating a head-worn version of the laser guide. And what point is a head-mounted laser if you’re not going to wear a uniform and liberate and take a radical approach to 3D printing in public.