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Fancy being able to develop an idea and physically create it all while you’re sat at your desk.  The arrival of 3D printing has opened up endless possibilities for designers and concept development teams, giving them the ability to produce parts and concept models using a printer that sits neatly on their desk.

We live in a time where instant gratification underpins every aspect of our lives – from buy now pay later to having TV on demand and shopping at the click of a button.  Although this 3D printing is, in many ways, a sign of the times, it has the potential to change the very fabric of our lives.

3D printing takes virtual designs from CAD and transform them into thin, virtual, horizontal cross-sections, building up layers until the model is complete.  The Economist described it as technology which “may have an impact on the world as the coming of the factory did” because it makes it as cheap to create one item as it does thousands.

So it’s hugely disruptive for traditional manufacturing, but it’s the technology’s potential as a means to solve more complex problems that has really captured the world’s imagination.  Hip replacements, for tissue engineering and the creation of chemical compounds all at the touch of a button.  Other suggested applications have included archaeology and forensics, providing a new way to reconstruct damaged artefacts and evidence.

We don’t have to imagine this world – academics and designers are working on making this possible as we speak and the applications for 3D printing are clearly limitless.   These printers now cost as little as £1500 (compared to £20,000 three to five years ago) – I think it’s time we all started learning CAD.

When it comes to how we think, behave and interact with other people, we may be affected more than we might like to think by our sense of touch.

That is the conclusion of researchers from Yale, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who have carried out a series of experiments to find out how our tactile environment affects our thoughts and behaviours. They found that subjects asked to complete a jigsaw then judge on a relationship between two people were more likely to see it as adversarial if the pieces of the puzzle were rough, not smooth. In the same way, volunteers given a hard block to handle while being told about an interaction between a boss and an employee were more likely to see the protagonists as being stubborn than those given a blanket to hold.

There is something primal about this. These instincts are formed early on in our lives, some of them in the womb. They are bound up with feelings of warmth, comfort and love. So it’s something we must always take into account when designing our surroundings, and especially those in which we interact with other people. Good design is about more than the visual, it touches us on every level.

Posted By Ann Clarke. July 10th