This project is my attempt to build a 3D printer for makers who prefer chance to control. The design of this system grew out of my shared interest in computational design, art-making, feminism in tech, and instruction art. I want this system to call values embodied in the design of 3D printers into question: why must working with 3D printers require us to delegate work to a machine? Could there be a way to work with 3D printing that was more cooperative, allowing for human and mechanical modes of making to inform one another? These questions are important because not all modes of working are regarded with the same value to society. Delegation, control,and other "hard" or abstract styles of working are often seen as more sophisticated as work engages unpredictability, negotiation, time, and cooperation. The former can be seen as a way of attempting to impose the wills of the human maker onto the world of passive materials, the latter may be seen as a way of making by coming to understand the properties and behaviors of the world that cannot be controlled and working with them. Where the former is accomplished by closing off making to forces of unpredictability (i.e. placing fabrication in a controlled lab, limiting participation, engineering custom materials) the latter is accomplished by radically opening up the processes to unpredictable forces, creating more opportunities for materials to be resistant and reacted to. A "good result" in the former is a object that meets expectations exactly, a "good result" in the latter is one that emerges over time and practice and could not be predicted ahead of time. I built a 3D printer for the latter by subjecting the machine instructions to human interpretation and human motivation to machine interpretation. If you want to join me in my attempt to carve a space for unpredictability, abstraction, slowness in digital fabrication, keep on reading and make one for yourself. I keep an ongoing log of my projects with the system at beingthemachine.com
I created an Arduino controlled laser guide that walks you though the process of building something like a 3D printer. The Arduino code translates G-Code (the language of 3D printers) into coordinates that can be drawn by a laser connected to two servo motors. If you follow the dot with your hand while laying down material, eventually you'll end with something that's more or less like your 3D model.
It's a bit easier to understand how to follow the laser if you watch the process in 2D. When the light turns on, you put the pencil down. When the dot moves, you move your pencil to the dot. When the light turns off, you pick the pencil up, ending the line you were drawing. When the light turns on again, you put your pen down again and follow it, and so on and so on. Eventually the dot will just stop moving and you'll be done.
In 3D, you do the same thing but you replace a pencil with something with volume and form. Like pipe cleaners. The code controlling the laser adjusts for the height of the model and will draw on top of the layer that you already put down. So, instead of drawing lines on a single plane, you'll start laying materials on top of each other and build something in 3D. Each time you move up a level the systems will make a sort of video game "level up" sound letting you know that you've finished a layer.