Automatically Replicating MakerBot Invasion at SXSW! 3-D Printing Goes Gangsta

3-D printing has spawned a small, passionate hacker/hobbyist community that not only designs and prints objects, but plays off each others’ work, creating a tangible new dimension in Internet memes.

Automatically Replicating MakerBot Invasion at SXSW! 3-D Printing Goes Gangsta

3-D printing is serious business. It can revolutionize custom manufacturing. It can make people new organs and prosthetic limbs.


But 3-D printing has also spawned a small, passionate hacker/hobbyist community who use the relatively affordable open-source Makerbots (as well as CupCake–about to be discontinued!!–and the new Thing-O-Matic) to design and print objects as large as 5 by 5 by 5 inches out of plastic (either the kind in milk jugs, the kind in Legos, or a new kind made out of cornstarch), and who trade their designs on a site called Thingiverse.

“Thingiverse was literally created in a weekend,” Marty McGuire, Makerbot’s webmaster, explained to Fast Company after his SXSW panel. “Bre [Pettis] and Zack [Smith], two of
the cofounders of Makerbot, were working on the laser cutter at [hackerspace] NYC Resistor, and they kept losing the files on each others’ laptops or USB sticks. They threw up the site to share files with each other.” 

As it does with all manner of memes, sharing of these 3-D designs naturally beget remixing, mashups, and surrealistic bot battles. The difference is that with the use of the ThingoMatic, Thingiverse designs can cross from the screen into the real world. “There was this model that just quietly appeared one day,” says McGuire. “It was a guy in a hoodie, called the Gangsta.”

“At the botcave we really liked it and started using it for
test prints. We had a bunch of gangstas lined up all over the place.

“Now, somebody thought it would be funny to put the gangsta together with another model of a snake for a head to make
the snakesta.


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That pretty much started a tidal wayve of ridiculous mashups.” [The Stasta–gangsta + gangsta]


The Unicornsta:



“And, probably the maximum for this, somebody took the Gangsta and hollowed out his leg to make a
tube so you could have a peeing gangsta. Then someone added that to a model of Duchamp’s Fountain



that someone else has made, and added on someone else’s Walt Disney head with an exposed brain which is actually a rendering of somebody’s MRI




While this may not exactly be the future of manufacturing, it may be the future of creative, collaborative consumption. And it’s definitely the future of an Internet meme. What if the next “Tom Selleck, a waterfall and a sandwich” were a three-dimensional universe? With real water? Real moustache? Real mustard?

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About the author

Anya Kamenetz is the author of Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010). Her 2011 ebook The Edupunks’ Guide was funded by the Gates Foundation