The two sides of 3D printing in “Arms”

In what is called as the next big revolution in the world, 3D printing is slowly making its mark. A world where you can start downloading furniture, toys and other things you would need and print it yourself. Feels almost like technology utopia, but it does have its qualms.

A detailed guide to printing in 3D is already published on the blog before, you can read it here. I am today going to pen my thoughts about what’s the next few steps and where we might go from here. And yes for a seemingly innocent technology as well, there can be a dark side. (Never underestimate the mind of a human being). But before I go all dark and scary, lets start with the positive.

“Magic Arms” for Emma

 

Emma was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC), a rare disease that cripples joints and limbs. Because of this condition, the two-year-old girl couldn’t play with blocks, bring food to her mouth or hug her mother.

That is, until engineers at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children used a 3D printer to create a durable exoskeleton that helps her lift her arms. Emma was able to lift candy to her mouth for the first time while wearing the supportive plastic vest.

The Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton (WREX) is made of hinged metal bars, resistance bands and tiny 3D printed parts. Emma calls them her “magic arms.” Emma was one of the first patients to wear the WREX. Now, about 15 of the hospital’s littlest patients are wearing the lightweight vests. The ease of 3D printing makes customization of parts possible. When a piece breaks, on-demand printers enable quick fixes. If a child outgrows a vest, the engineers can simply print larger parts out.

And Emma’s case is not just isolated, here are some more :

With advances like this one, and many others, you can quickly see the draw that many people have to 3D printing. It solves business problems, but more so, it solves life problems and changes lives.

And then come the “Fire Arms”

This summer, an American hobbyist used a thermoplastic machine to fashion parts for a homemade .22-caliber rifle.

Wisconsin engineer and amateur gunsmith Michael Guslick detailed on his personal blog how he used a Stratasys 3D printer and downloaded blueprints for the lower receiver — or frame — of an AR-15 firearm (the closest civilian variant of the M-16).

Guslick has been prototyping ideas for gun parts for years, but it did not occur to him until last year to use his Stratasys to build an actual firearm. “The concept is making its way to the hobbyist gunsmith,” he explained on the blog. He took pains to record how he made the 3D-printed weapon; as to the best of his knowledge, this is the first firearm in the world to be tested.

For the U.S. government, keeping tabs on the flow of physical weapons is proving to be a problem. 3D printing is only making matters worse: How do you control a digital pattern that people can use to print guns in their living rooms?

However, if metal materials become available for home printers, it could become possible for hobbyists to one day print an entire gun. Gun-enthusiast groups like “Defense Distributed” even set up a crowdfunding page (known as “Wiki weapon”) to usher into existence the first fully 3D printed gun. Indiegogo recently shut down its page, citing “unusual account activity.”

In related news, the army recently deployed a 3D printing kit to Afghanistan, including an industrial CNC machine, plasma cutters and more, so soldiers could built weapons on the spot, without needing to ship equipment from overseas.

So well the sort of other “arms” to be printed are not al that great for mankind. Who is to say this will not lead to another incident like the one at the opening of Dark Knight Rises. Access to many weapons easy, is not really something that the engineers would have thought when they made the first.

What I think 

Well there will always be people who will use technology for bad, I think the example of the nuclear weapon is the largest that anyone can give. But the promise of clean energy is worth the scare. Similarly these extremities will always exist in technology, its upto when we will be able to justify the good to bad is when the true potential comes through. In fact, I am a believer that saving one “Emma” is worth a lot more than potentially creating havoc.

What do you guys think ? let me know.

What’s the alternative options if Bit Torrent sites are closed ?

Survival of the fittest is the motto that Human Beings have always lived by. When faced by adversity or restriction, we tend to fight and find solutions that are tailored to the problem as well as solutions that are well sometimes out of the box. Today, the online world especially most of the people who download content from the internet are faced with some serious restrictions to what people can download and share. A wealth of information / data and content is available online but not all of it is copyright, one of the most efficient ways to share this information especially large information like music movies etc was through the very very popular Bit Torrents. Bit torrents have gained popularity over the years and as you would imagine most people use them. But with the introduction of SOPA / PIPA and now ACTA it is getting more and more unlikely that these Bit Torrent sites and clients can move further. But like I said earlier we do come out of problems with innovative solutions. Although I believe that more solutions will present themselves in due course like the Option 2, currently there is a budding solution to our woes.

The truth about piracy is simple, I would download a movie and watch it only if I am not really interested to go see it in the theatre. In fact if torrent downloads were not possible, I would not really go and see it at all ! So in that sense the movie industry does not need to fear torrent downloads per se. The real piracy is the fake DVD’s, CD’s and other activities that happen in the shadow and bringing a few websites down will fuel these activities even more. Demand Supply rule here. If you look at the infographic I posted last week this gets terribly visible. The bad movies made the top 10 list as well as the good ones, the downloading trend will probably affect by pinching away those users who would love to buy and keep copies of movies. Not the real cinema money. Food for thought.

First lets talk about Torrents in general. 

A torrent file is a document containing a number of pieces of information about a file including the names of its various component parts as well as pertinent identifying information. Torrent files do not point to specific files on specific servers but instead point to codes that identify chunks of a file. These files are actually quite large – a few kilobytes to a few hundred – and most BitTorrent feeds have used them exclusively for the past few years.

There’s a problem with torrent files, however, that has to do more with perception than reality. To the average politico – and to the average media lobbyist – Torrent files are “files” that point to pirated content.

Option 1 : Tribler

One of the technologies that builds on the BitTorrents which is going to be more relevant than before is Tribler. The Tribler BitTorrent client is no newcomer to the BitTorrent scene. It has been in development for more than 5 years and has delivered many innovative features, which have mostly been ignored by the masses. Developed by a team of researchers at Delft University of Technology, the main goal is to come up with a robust implementation of BitTorrent that doesn’t rely on central servers. Instead, Tribler is designed to keep BitTorrent alive, even when all torrent search engines, indexes and trackers are pulled offline.

So how does it work?

Like many other BitTorrent clients, Tribler has a search box at the top of the application. However, the search results that appear when users type in a keyword don’t come from a central index. Instead, they come directly from other peers. Downloading a torrent is also totally peer to peer and not from a central location. When a user clicks on one of the search results, the header information or meta date (what exists in the torrent file) is pulled in from another peer and the download starts immediately. Tribler is based on the standard BitTorrent protocol and uses regular BitTorrent trackers to communicate with other peers. But, it can also continue downloading when a central tracker goes down.

Tribler uses crowd-sourcing to keep the network clean. Content is verified by user generated “channels”, which can be “liked” by others. When more people like a channel, the associated torrents get a boost in the search results. All this without a central server, guess what no more shutting down websites, and no more losing downloading opportunities.

It simply can’t be shutdown, blocked or censored, whatever laws politicians may come up with. One thing that could theoretically cause issues, is the capability for starting users to find new peers. To be on the safe side the Tribler team is still looking for people who want to act as so called bootstraptribler peers. These users will act as superpeers, who distribute lists of active downloaders. The only other way to shut it down would be to shut down the internet. Imagine that !

While the Tribler client only has a few thousand users at the moment, for avid file-sharers it must be a relief to know that it’s out there. No matter what crazy laws may pass in the future, people will always be able to share.

Those who want to give it a spin are welcome download Tribler here. It’s completely Open Source and with a version for Windows, Mac and Linux.

Option 2 : 3D Printing

This for a lot of people including the Pirate Bay is the future of downloading. With 3d printers getting more affordable as well as a lot more advanced, the days when 3D artwork of a movie Blue Ray downloaded and printing your own copies of the Blue Ray disks is not far away. This about this as an option, you browse popular 3D sharing websites including ones like Google Sketchup, where some user uploads a 3D image of a DVD with the print of the movie on it, all you need is a 3D printer to make unlimited copies of the movie for you.

This is a bit distant but do not under estimate the importance of something like this, especially when Pirate Bay makes a prediction on these lines.

Option 3 : Other Peer to Peer tools 

The third option would be the one that people that plant viruses and malware love. Back to the age old software like Limewire, iMesh and other clients on desktops that can also help in peer to peer downloads. I think we all know the era when we relied on these and what was the result. COnstant pain of viruses and such.

Regardless the option we choose, the options for the industry to block the downloading would only mean that we will find another means and source, after all we are not the most successful species on the planet without the adversity to adapt.