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3D Printing In Popular Culture: A New Character Is Born

January 22nd, 2014

3D Printing In Popular Culture: A New Character Is Born

The process of printing items in three dimensions is in the stage of development for 30 years now. It is a quickly evolving technology. As more manufacturers of 3D printers acquire the know-how of 3D printing, it becomes a better developed and more attractive technology for the consumers. During the last few years home users kept engaging in 3D printing as a form of entertainment. It is expected that the possibility to become makers themselves will make this technology massively popular.

3D printing is in its transformation phase from a scientific tool for making prototypes to a cool hobby of printing stuff at home. It is making its way to television and the music scene right now. And here are the steps of 3D printing doing that.

TV Series

The Big Bang Theory

A sitcom about four scientists living in Pasadena, California - well, that is a TV show which you would probably think about first when you think about where 3D printing could be seen in popular culture. Yes, we also think that it was just a matter of time when a 3D printer will appear in this TV show.

And it was, probably, the first TV series to show a 3D printer in a daily use. One of the main characters, Howard Wolowitz even makes a 3D printed copy of himself by using a 3D scanner and gives it as a present to his girlfriend.

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This episode, which was aired almost a year ago, on January 31, 2013, nicely depicts one of the main points of using a 3D printer right now - to have fun.


Matt Groening is the creator of the longest running TV series in the USA - The Simpsons. In 1999 he started another cartoon TV show - Futurama. As the title depicts - it takes place in the future - year 2999, to be precise. However, even in the "future" it took 14 years for a 3D printer to make the first appearance in this story.

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In the episode which was aired on 3 July 2013 Bender, one of the main characters of Futurama, uses a huge 3D printer to make an exact copy of a guitar which he has seen earlier. So, we could say that he used himself as a 3D scanner. It should not be surprising, as he is a robot. By the way, he does it for bad purposes - he wants to steal a guitar of a famous country artist. Therefore, this episode might signalize about the risks which may strike 3D printing in the near future.

The Simpsons

Matt Groening has incorporated a 3D printer in The Simpsons' timeline way earlier than he did in the one of Futurama. It is circa year 3013 when it first appears on Futurama and it is the year 2056 in The Simpsons futuristic storyline. 3D printing in The Simpsons went event further than in Futurama - Lisa Simpson has been 3D printed in the episode of the 24th of November, 2013. A person 3D printed only in 42 years from now. Now, is that possible?

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Have you heard about a 3D printed gun? Well, yes, a real metal gun was 3D printed by Solid Concepts in the end of the last year. It did not take long for screenwriters to adopt the idea of a 3D printed gun into TV series. In fact, they did it earlier than the scientists. Well, fictionally. The printed gun has appeared in the US drama series Elementary. Sherlock Holmes, who is the main protagonist in this series, has proved that the murder was made with a 3D printed gun which was melted after the crime.

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If screenwriters will be as foreseeing as they are now, TV series could become a good way to get a "tomorrow's newspaper" about 3D printing today.

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You do not see a poster like this very often, or do you?



TV series, of course, is not the only type of media to acquire and portray 3D printing. It is no surprise that computer games (or a gamer, to be precise) adopted this technology way earlier. A video of a 3D printer constructed in a game called Minecraft has been uploaded to YouTube on December 16, 2013. So, gamers who have an opportunity to build something in a game are already building a... 3D printer to build something. Now, that is devotion to technology!


Real Steel

It is the year 2020 and boxing is no longer a sport of humans. Only robots fight in these times. Well, that is the scenario of a movie called "Real Steel". The creators of this film have used Objet 3D printer to produce the 1/5th scale models of robots to make them as realistic as it could be. Filmmakers appreciated the speed and accuracy of production made by that 3D printer. Although, they had to paint printed models themselves, 3D printing let them to save a lot of time.


Victoria's Secret

We have already written about 3D printing in fashion. However, 3D printing hitting the stage in a fashion show is something worth mentioning again. Especially, if it is the show of Victoria's Secret. It was an idea from Swarovski and Shapeways to create a "Snow Queen". They have created and printed a costume which suits one of the Victoria's models perfectly. It is the 3D printed wings attached to the costume. The fans of fashion always expect something new from Victoria's Secret. 3D printing is a not-so-bad idea to make a surprise!

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The show was aired on the 10th of December.

Dita Von Teese

Dita Von Teese was the model who was selected to wear a 3D printed gown - a long dress. It was presented in New York in the beginning of March, 2013. The dress has been made from black filament and 13,000 Swarovski crystals. It was constructed from 17 pieces and the material weighted 11,5 pounds.

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Could it be the beginning of the 3D printable trend in fashion? Maybe, just check the case above.


Childish Gambino

3D printed gun is an attractive object not only for a TV series, but also for a... rap song. Childish Gambino is probably the first rapper who talked about 3D printing in his rhyme of "Zealots of Stockholm". He imagines himself sitting at Denny's and getting shot by a maniac with a 3D printed gun. You can listen to the track here:

3D Printed Vinyl Record

Who said that 3D printing is not an accurate technology? There is a solid and worldwide-known proof that those who said so were completely wrong. Do you know, how does the vinyl record keep the sound? Every groove in the record represents a different sound. Therefore, they must be scraped very precisely. So, it was a tough task for Amanda Ghassaei, a software engineer, to come up with an idea on how to 3D print a music record of Bloc Party's lead singer Kele Okereke. It could not be done by hand as it would not be as precise as it should be. Ghassaei had to write a script that would automatically turn a music file into a record design.

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The model and 3D print itself had to be made with extreme precision.

3D Printed Record from Amanda Ghassaei on Vimeo

3D Printed Music Instruments

If there is a 3D printed music record, then why there cannot be a band which uses 3D printing in their live shows? Oh, yes, there is. There is an odd band which is actually called ODD and it used 3D printed instruments at their gig in Frankfurt in the beginning of December, 2013. The band got two guitars, a keyboard and a drum kit with 3D printed bodies.

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It was very interesting to see 3D printing becoming worldwide famous in popular culture in 2013. And it will be very exciting to see it becoming a true rockstar this year.

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