How often have you lost or broken a piece of a machine and rendered it useless? It’s always annoying when a small part of something breaks and the only thing you can do to fix it is buy something completely new. Digital fabrication has the potential to fix this problem. In the past decade digital fabrication has become an essential in the design process of many people. Digital fabrication uses computer automated fabrication tools for various construction methods, such as 3D printers and laser cutters.
Instead of using 3D printers to create models of buildings or light fixtures, a practical possibility for the future for 3D printing would be printing spare product parts. This opens the door to extending the life of an object if its parts are discontinued or expensive to order from the manufacture. Ideally, an online 3D warehouse full of thousands of parts, with designs released from companies themselves, would be available for download. Once the file for the object is on your computer you can either print it on your own 3D printer, once they become more reasonably priced. For now, however, the file could be sent to a commercial 3D printing company and mailed directly to your home.
A few weeks ago I bought a shoe rack at target. While putting it together I broke two of the clips that is suppose to connect the racks to the frame. I now own a four tiered shoe rack with 2 racks that sit crooked and cannot connect to the frame. In the future, it would be nice if it were possible for me not to buy a new $20 shoe rack, but instead be able to print out 2 plastic clips that hold the rack to the metal frame. It can be argued that digital fabrication is a cost saving and a “green” way of fixing a product, since one does not need to buy an entirely new object.
On a similar note, a small online shoe business, Continuum, has begun selling 3D printed shoes. The style, color, and heel height are customizable. This is being called “user-designed fashion.” The discovery of digital fabrication has opened up new possibilities in the design world. If you have $900 to splurge on a pair of unique and crazy looking shoes, here you go!