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3D printing: What would Da Vinci say?

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When relatively new technology receives the endorsement of a megastar such as Black Eyed Peas will.i.am, its popularity skyrockets and suddenly the application possibilities seem endless.

Appointed recently as the chief creative officer of a global 3D printing company, will.i.am has set about taking 3D printing beyond the limited reach of staunch tech enthusiasts. His aim is to promote a simple-to-operate 3D printer that would reduce material waste by using recycled materials. This effort to promote sustainable living and highlight the environmental impact of manufacturing is only the tip of an iceberg that is both mind-blowingly large and infinitely useful.

 

 

“3D printing has been around for some time. However, consumers have recently begun to become more engaged in the 3D printing value chain,” says Simon Bromfield, Channel Manager at Adobe Systems Sub-Saharan Africa. “When most people talk about 3D printing, the focus is on the printers. But what will ultimately drive the growth of the consumer 3D printing market is the availability of content that is compelling to consumers.”

3D printing or additive manufacturing is being developed and adapted to spread its influence across a number of sectors and processes. 2014 has seen a number of significant breakthroughs in the use of this technology. Swedish supercar manufacturer, Koenigsegg recently unveiled the One:1, a supercar that utilises many components that were 3D printed. This year, 3D printing has begun to be used in production versions of spaceflight hardware. Healthcare advances have also been profound: scientists are using 3D printing and living tissue to produce ears, kidneys and livers.

But one of the most rapidly evolving applications of 3D printing is taking place in the creative space. Sculptors, modelers, artists, concept designers, illustrators and even jewellers and architects are embracing the potential of 3D printing to create complex objects that could not be made in other ways.

“A big part of what influences the value of content has to do with colour. Much of the content created today is monochrome, but with the right software, creative and designers have the control and flexibility to add colour, polish and texture to transform a 3D object into something meaningful and vibrant,” says Bromfield.

Designer Francis Bitonti, well known in design circles for a 3D printed gown that he created for fashion icon Dita von Teese, sees computational methodologies, smart materials and interactive environments as an opportunity to create new aesthetic languages for the creative industry.

“My design process is a collaboration with artificial intelligence,” says Bitoni. “We are transposing these ideas from design methodologies to tangible consumer experiences.”

In order for creatives to produce inspirational pieces, many of them are working with software that is developed specifically for the production of physical output.

Tobias Klein, architect and creator of The Garden of Earthly Delights, an art piece orientated on the work of Hieronymous Bosch and featured at the 3D Print Show London 2014, explains its use in practice: “We use Photoshop CC distinctively at the front end in its capability to quickly generate artwork and colour schemes for the later application onto the models. This helps us considerably to communicate the design in a fast and effective way as we can export the painted models between various platforms.”

“3D printing has opened up a creative pathway that is fantastical, boundless and alive with possibilities,” says Bromfield. “The production of high quality full colour content is already changing high-end jewellery, sculptures, household goods, fashion and architecture. Technologically advanced software can turn visionary design ideas into tangible reality.”

 

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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