I have to admit I was a bit incredulous as I listened to Brian Mathews describe the future of 3D imaging at the recent SPAR International conference near Houston. The vice president of Autodesk Labs claimed that one day we will all be simply printing anything we want to own—in a completely customized and fully self-assembling design, no less—as “infinite computing” becomes a reality and the cost of complexity is reduced to nothing. It sounded like something right out of a futuristic scifi movie.
But then I happened upon this image of a space shuttle
that was printed out of scallops and cheese. It made me a little hungry, but beyond that, it made my head spin with the possibilities. If chefs are already printing 3D food, how much longer before Mathews’ vision becomes a reality? Not long, it turns out. A couple of quick searches uncovered instances in which artists
are already harnessing the technology.
Of course, all of that is fascinating from a product development standpoint, but it has little to do with surveying and mapping, right? Think again. If the entire basis for this new 3D world is data capture, measurement and modeling, then who better to provide the foundational services that will be needed in this new paradigm? Is a surveyor’s landscape limited to the land, or are there much broader applications on the horizon?
It’s these types of questions that led Ken Smerz, a 3D entrepreneur and business owner, to launch the new nonprofit 3D Professional Association
. In a POB exclusive podcast interview, Smerz shared that he sees an increasing need for collaboration among very diverse groups as 3D technology becomes less expensive and easier to integrate into a variety of workflows. “There is no doubt that 3D technology is expanding and will touch all of our lives. We will become globally a 3D world, and that will become the normal currency versus what will one day be old-fashioned drawings,” he said. The committee-driven organization aims to provide a broad perspective on these changes—or, as Smerz describes, a view from 40,000 feet. (You can listen to the entire interview here
. The interview will soon be added to POB's podcast library
as part of our new series on associations.)
It’s still difficult to say where 3D is headed. Clearly, however, the technology is gaining speed. Fortunately, there’s still plenty of room for individuals and firms to climb on board. With the knowledge and skill to apply modern technology and with creative thinking as your passport, you can take the 3D transporter virtually anywhere. How far will you go?