To be involved in making, you don’t have to be the type of person who can build a 3D printer from scratch, recycle milk containers into filament, and wield a soldering iron like the pistoleros in the Wild West. That image of the X-treme maker may actually work to keep some people from every even dipping their toes in the pool of creative possibilities offered by 3D printing technology.
Before I get tangled in a metaphor that involves the pistoleros going swimming and possibly picturing life as a game of football, let me clarify. So many of us are absolutely removed from the creation of the products that we use that it can seem nearly magical that they work at all. Not only are we completely dependent on premade things, but there has been a raft of research demonstrating that people feel more connected to objects they have had a hand in creating.
With all this in mind, Dutch startup Print+ is working to develop kits that can be purchased that allow people to interact with the creation of their own products but in a way that doesn’t require they already be lifeguards at the pool of maker ability (the one that is filled with pistoleros…).
Their first kit is for a pair of headphones and they have begun a Kickstarter campaign to take it from concept to public release.
In an interview with 3DPrint.com, Patrick Schuur, one of the founding members of the Print+ team, explained their approach:
“We’re trying to make it really easy and convenient for people to manufacture their own products. We provide the unprintable parts in kit form – people print the plastic parts themselves. For Print+ though these headphones are just the beginning, we hope to be able to release a lot more DIY kits in the future.”
It’s not just about convenience though. When we don’t understand how something is created, we can’t fix it when it breaks – even if the part that breaks is one that could otherwise be easily replaced. Instead, many people throw things away that could be repaired, creating clutter for landfills and litter for landscapes. Print+ hopes that their kits can works to counter this wasteful aspect of consumption, noting:
“Because people become the manufacturer of their own product, they will also be perfectly able to repair their own product. Either by ordering a Print+ replacement component or by 3D printing a new version of the broken part. This can also lengthen our product’s lifetime quite a bit – how often do we have to throw perfectly good products away because one tiny element breaks?”
The consideration of sustainability is deeply integrated into the approach taken by Print+. Not only will people benefit from lowered costs (replacing a broken piece rather than buying a whole new product) and gain satisfaction (from having a role in the making of their product), but these kits have a relatively low embodied energy (their creation doesn’t require the same amount of fossil fuel consumption as other products).
“By providing kits containing only the parts that can’t be 3D printed,” Print+ explains, “the total shipping volume that needs to travel around the world can be reduced. We envision that in the future there will be major developments in local recycling o plastics, so filament will also be removed from the shipping equation. This would enable us to close the circle for a large portion of our parts.”
This isn’t just a plan for profit cloaked in a friendly disguise. In the spirit of open source that is a strong part of the culture of the maker movement, all the 3D files for their basic models will be available freely for hacking, sharing, improving, and just playing. Print+ has spent a lot of time experimenting with both the sound and the look of the headphones and hopes that others will too.
They’re just getting started, but it is clear that they have a firm understanding of design, graphics, and technology that will make them quite a powerhouse. It’s also clear that their idea is one whose time has come. With 28 days left in their campaign, running through October 14th, they have already received support for 164 backers and are at just over 70% of their overall €10,000 project goal. (Update as of time of edit: 190 backers and nearly 80% funded!)
A quick peek at their video (check it out below) shows their highly developed marketing savvy and it’s hard not to want a pair after seeing all the colors and watching them jam out. In fact, they just got their 165th backer…Now I can listen to Jay-Z when my kids are home and it won’t disturb their cello practice.
Let us know your thoughts on these 3D printable kits. Discuss in the Print+ forum thread on 3DPB.com.