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How 3D printing will turn us all (back) into makers: Avi Reichental at TED2014

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Avi Reichental. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

3D printing pioneerĀ Avi Reichental is nostalgic for a time he never quite experienced — a time of hyper-local, made-to-order, personalized craftsmanship. While the industrial revolution did a lot to advance humanity, says Reichental, it eradicated local manufacturing that people like his grandfather, a cobbler, excelled in. It atrophied society’s craftsmanship skills.

But, says Reichental, there’s a revolution coming: a 3D printed one. And what’s interesting about it is not how it’s “going to catapult us into the future, but rather how it’s going to connect us to our heritage — into a new era of localized, distributed manufacturing.”

Reichental mentions a few of his favorite projects from the 3D printing world:

A beautiful body suit

Amanda Boxtel, who is paralyzed from the waist down, could already stand and walk thanks to her exo-bionic legs and suit, but she wanted something inspired by her body, made to measure. She challenged Reichental to make something more elegant, feminine and lightweight, so he built her a beautiful suit. Amanda finally had an opportunity to regain her symmetry and her authenticity.

Personalized medical devices

Reichental shows custom-made 3D-printed ventilated scoliosis braces, dental restorations and in-ear hearing aides. He holds up a sleek and beautiful 3D-printed brace for a leg amputee.

For the first time it’s possible to print incredible (and edible!) delights, like a TED(dy) bear Reichental presents on stage. He says, “What if we could begin to put ingredients, colors, flavors in every taste?” Says Reichental, that means the promise of personalized nutrition is right around the corner.

3D printed shoes made for Avi Reichental. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

3D printed shoes made for Avi Reichental. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

The most exciting thing about 3D printing is that complexity is free. Says Reichental, “The printer doesn’t care whether it makes the most rudimentary or most complex shape.” And hopefully, it will make manufacturers out of all of us.