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The magic of 3D printing really never wears off. Last night at our downtown library searching for a book on the magic of cockatiels and other high-maintenance pets for my youngest, the family and I happened to traverse to one of the upper floors. We stepped off the elevator, and I was quite stunned to be looking right at two little girls about eight or nine years of age who were seated by themselves practically running an entire 3D printing lab. A long counter, stretching a good portion of the room (otherwise ol2occupied by older folks completely ignoring the ongoing production) was fully appointed with a row of Apple computers, two MakerBot Replicators, and a long row of 3D printed models on display.

One of the girls was busy as she could be, manipulating design files online, while the other was planted directly in front of the 3D printer with her chin in her hands, serenely watching the machine print layer after layer of vivid red filament.

I asked a few questions and they showed me a wide range of the items they’d 3D printed–and then wanted to invite me to their class–or so I thought–as they bypassed me (ouch) and handed the printed MakerClub invitation to my kids, who by then were busy playing with the 3Doodler and making plans to skip homework, dinner, and everything involved to hang out with this much younger generation of inventors. And could I just, like, go find something to do for an hour or two?

When it comes to digital design and 3D printing, many of us want to jump up and down and shout, “Can you believe this? Look!” Especially, in showing the wonder of 3D printing to our children, we expect a huge reaction. The truth is that for kids this is just all normal. The smartphone, the computer–the 3D printer–this is the digital age they have been ‘nourished’ upon. Many of us have discovered by now that if you want to get a reaction out of the younger crowd–and feel dated yourself–show them a rotary phone instead.

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Because there is simply too much fun to be had with this new technology though, the team at Five Brothers Entertainment decided to leapfrog right over the savvy younger generations and head for a more mature crowd to see what type of reaction they might have to some seriously modern contraptions known as the 3D printer. Now this is where it gets good!

Explaining to a group of a people, most at least nearing middle age, that they would be ‘reacting’ to new technology, most were open to the idea, smiling. And then, without being told what the technology was, the Robo3D R1 3D printer was unveiled and they were…opinionated. The women were most entertaining in their skepticism with reports of being unimpressed, and finding the machines…interesting.

In the beginning of the video, it was as if we were watching a study in the differences between the sexes, as the men were somewhat curious about this obviously scientific machine but rather worried about being put to the test, while the women sat back rather imperiously, wondering if this idle piece of metal actually had anything going for it at all.

“It doesn’t look particularly new,” stated a well-dressed woman with a posh British accent. Underwhelmed.

“It’s an automatic lanyard maker,” declared another. What?

“That small?” inquired one older gentleman quizzically. Yup.

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Levels of enthusiasm were up and down as they found out that the machine was a 3D printer, and then the film team brought out the ‘strings’ of filament.

“I just don’t see how a little thing like this can make a three dimensional product,” said one man, holding out a spool of filament, befuddled. Not amused.

The operation came to a screeching halt when the group was informed they would be 3D printing.

“Now, I’m going to walk you through how to use this,” said one of the crew.

“Oh gosh!” says one man. “NO.”

“I’m going to use this?” says one woman in terror.

“Good luck to you!” says another.

Moods swung back to excited once the digital file choices were in front of them, and they could choose to 3D print items such as an iPhone case or even a spork, as one man chose with enthusiasm.ol4

“I’m a foodie,” he said, getting more and more into this 3D printing thing by the minute.

Questioning whether they had to go to Hong Kong to retrieve their 3D models once designed, wondering if they could ‘get the gear’ and do this at home, and asking whether they should stand back for safety–the room filled with energy once the ROBO 3D printer went to work in front of them. Glasses perched on noses, eyes large, the group was at attention. That doesn’t mean criticism was at a standstill, however.

“Wow, it’s almost as slow as my printer at home.”

“This could take a while, couldn’t it? Does it move any faster?”

The crew, while being honest, really began to have fun with the group when 3D printing speeds were discussed.

“In just seventeen hours, you’ll have Thor’s hammer.” Utter confusion. Seventeen…hours?

From one woman exclaiming that they could just get out of there and she’d go buy said object at a store, to a pretty content gentleman sitting back in his seat saying he thought it was all pretty cool, opinions bounced all over the place during the wait, as the participants imagined themselves being held hostage in front of the camera for nearly an entire day and night, waiting…

Mercifully, they did not have to wait. The products were ready-made beforehand, unbeknownst to the group. Presented with their objects, they were finally, all, unanimously on board. Either that or they just wanted to get the hell out of there.

“Pretty dang impressive,” said one woman, turning Thor’s hammer over in her hands. “Seventeen hours?”

Another woman explained that because she is familiar with the phone, she felt the other technologies ‘creeping up’ on her as she watched the process and saw the outcome. In the end, as the group became serious in considering what areas and sectors 3D printing can impact, and they really got it–as well as understanding that some traditional machinists may find themselves out of jobs eventually. From medicine to commerce to items like guns, the group predicted 3D printing technology marching forward–even taking us to space.

It’s amazing how one segment on technology can show such a wide range of thought and emotion. Opinions wavered and waned throughout this video–which is one you’ll want to share–but my favorite character, with the posh British accent, summed it all up quite succinctly:

“It’s fantastic. This technology’s going to change everything.”

Discuss this rather comical video in the Elders and 3D Printing forum thread on 3DPB.com.

 

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