A student at The Ohio State University is taking campus maintenance into his own hands by creating 3D printed bricks to fill in the spaces left by missing masonry. It’s not that the campus is in an advanced state of disrepair, but rather that there are literally thousands of brick areas on campus and with the passage of time, weather, and use bricks sometimes disappear. Somewhat like a missing tooth, Rob Milburn found their absence to mar the attractive campus. Instead of complaining to an already overworked facilities staff, he decided that he would do something on his own to help fill in the gaps.
Milburn didn’t have a stack of bricks ready in his dorm room, but what he did have there was a 3D printer which he could use to make a replacement. After printing the first brick, cleverly marked “404 Brick Not Found”, he placed it on campus and enjoyed the satisfaction that comes with having made some small difference. What he didn’t realize was how popular his replacement bricks were going to become. Several hours later, a friend of his notified him that a picture of his brick was making waves on Reddit, getting thousands of views and sparking a vigorous conversation. As he explained in an interview with WOSU radio:
“It just kind of bugs me that in the middle of the sidewalk there’s a brick missing. I’m like, just humorously I was talking to my friends and I was like, ‘I got an idea. I should just 3D print a brick and put it in there’…I’ve had some spots recommended to me. I’m gonna head down the street a little bit, then if I can’t find spots there then I’ll go by the RPAC because there’s always bricks missing there.”
Pretty soon, he was getting a steady stream of suggestions as to where his next brick should be and their popularity was such that often within less than an hour of having been placed they had been stolen by fans. Each brick has a message on it, some designed to amuse and others to inspire. On one brick, printed in red, the question is: “what’s red and bad for your teeth?” Though it does seem like there is a limit to brick-related possibilities, but Milburn’s not out just yet:
“I’m kind of running out of brick jokes, so this, today I’ve gone with more inspirational quotes. So this one’s like, ‘A successful person is one who can build a solid foundation on the bricks thrown at them.’ Then I’ve got a Steve Jobs quote, and a couple other sort of positive quotes.”
Producing a single brick can take anywhere from six to sixteen hours on a 3D printer from Robo 3D and the fit isn’t always perfect, but they have gained a steady fanbase. Enough of one, in fact, that Milburn was able to start a GoFundMe page that has received a total of $359 in donations so far. For five dollars, you can sponsor a brick with your name on it and for fifty you get a copy of your brick with the text of your choosing. But if you really want to kick in, Milburn is also accepting donations of $1,000 at which point he will 3D print nearly anything that you request.
He hasn’t meant with unqualified adoration for the work he is doing, however. Dr. Erdal Ozkan, a professor whose research focuses on pesticide application technology and pesticide waste management, thinks the bricks are an eyesore and that Milburn should stop putting them around campus and wrote him a message expressing his outrage:
“[P]utting plastic bricks on all over the campus using colors that don’t match the color of the existing bricks there is the biggest eye sore one can imagine. Please stop putting these ugly things with your NAME all over the campus. Leave the open spaces alone. Somebody will fix it. It is not your job.” (emphasis original)
Killjoys of the world unite. Or, as Buckeye Masonry put it: Haters gonna hate.
Whether the bricks are beautiful or not is beside the point, this project represents exactly the kind of DIY attitude that is so typical of 3D printing and we should see Milburn’s efforts to fix the world around him as a positive attribute. So often people complain that young people are apathetic and uninvolved, but it’s not the case. It’s just that when they do, we old people stand around and say “it’s not pretty” or “it’s not polite” by which we really mean, “it makes me uncomfortable because it is something I haven’t done or that is new to me.”
While OSU officials have declined to comment on this singular brick replacement campaign, one concern that has been raised in the meantime is the fact that Milburn has a 3D printer in his dorm room. The campus rules do not allow the machines to be in dorm rooms, but Milburn hopes his use of nontoxic filament addresses the reason the rule was made in the first place and will allow him to continue to create fillers for gaps in the brickwork. As he explained on reddit:
“Lemme address some things: 1. It is indeed 3D printed. 2. It is made out of PLA plastic, which is biodegradable. 3. I ain’t promoting/advertising anything, I’m just a student taking credit for my work.”
He goes on to clarify: “also, I did not remove the original brick”
Hopefully, the campus can embrace this for what it is: positive press about the kind of go-getting students that they nurture and an indicator of the sense of playfulness and enjoyment that is present on their campus. People can keep up to date with his masonry efforts through his Facebook page Buckeye Masonry. And maybe send the guy a brick-related quote or two…it looks like he’s going to need them. Discuss in the 3D Printed Bricks forum at 3DPB.com.[Images: Buckey Masonry via Facebook]