The 3Dpedia of stuff

If you are looking at a famous painting in a museum more likely than not you are looking at a copy. The replica albeit very accurate high definition copy of the original is not the original. Some museums choose to put replicas up to safeguard the work of the master from theft and all the grime and pollution millions of visitors generate through their sweat, breath, cameras and selfie sticks.

A while ago the John K. La Rue (JKL) museum of Telephony was destroyed in one of the worst wildfires of the summer raged across San Andreas California. According to Gizmondo the museum contained thousands of telephones, telephone switching boards and other antique equipment, dating from the late 1800s to the present.  This fire will prevent future generations from being able to admire and learn from the destroyed items

What if the equipment at the JKL could have been replicated at other museums around the world? In order to recreate anything one must have a blueprint for the object, the ability to manufacture the components that go into the making of that object and the skill and talent to bring the separate components into a finished product.

Blueprints. We tend to be tidy individuals, cleaning and clearing those items we no longer think we intend to make use of. Even if we do not physically destroy a schematic, unused schematics tend to end up in areas susceptible to extremes of humidly and temperature that severely shorten the life of the material they are documented on. When companies up or downsize, filing cabinets of “old” stuff end up in the landfill. Even for those items that have had many revisions, prior incarnations tend to get lost when they are replaced.  Companies could be encouraged to submit blueprints of products to secure repositories that would ensure that blueprints and manufacturing instructions are not released unless the copyright holder decides otherwise, provide versioning, and ensures that eventually prosperity has a chance to learn from them.

Manufacture. It seems that 3D printing is able to handle any material. With 3D printing it is possible to print just a single unit without the need to rig up an entire factory floor. As 3D printers become more adapt at overlaying different materials within the same process, compound prints can be created quickly and efficiently. While the manufacturing process itself would be different that used originally, the overall inputs, processes and outputs would be mimicked. Safety would have to prevail, for example materials such as asbestos would be replaced with health and environment friendly substitutes.

Understanding. Older equipment tends to be simpler to understand and assemble because miniaturisation had not set in, our expectation from the equipment was limited and our knowledge of the technology at the time was considerably less complex than it is today. It is far easier to understand and assemble a Motorola DynaTAC 8000X phone than the latest iPhone.  It be a great engineering project for a 12 year old hobbyist to build his own (functional) version of the phone.

Knowhow. Armed with the ingredients (components) and the instructions (blueprints) professionals and hobbyists would have no difficulty in recreating the item. Adapting from open source, one would expect improvements to the manufacturing techniques and ideas that take such products into areas no one would have imagined before. IT, engineering,  science and art buffs of all ages working on their own, within user groups or within an educational framework would be able to improve on the items adding bells and whistles. Imagine an incarnation of a Ford Model T that runs on electricity (with an optional modules to give it that authentic sound and rattle the vehicle when in motion).

According to Wikipedia as of 2013, at least 63 Apple I computers have been confirmed to exist. Only six have been verified to be in working condition. If schools and museums all around the globe could have a functional unit, students could get a look at Steve Wozniak’s baby that gave rise to the Apple we know today. And owners of the original kit and the market for originals would benefit through exposure. Replicas of the Mona Lisa and Leonardo’s Codex have in no way dampened the price of the original, on the contrary greater exposure enhances their value.

Chris Bonnici MIAP

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