Tobold's Blog
Thursday, April 30, 2020
A solution in search of a problem

I like 3D printing. I'm not good at other methods of producing three-dimensional objects, like woodcarving or sculpting. So a 3D printer gives me the possibility to make a real object out of an idea. That is pretty cool. However, the technology has some serious limitations, most of them related to the material: A home 3D printer can only make plastic objects. Thingiverse is approaching 2 million objects, which is obviously a lot, but there are many more objects in your house that a 3D printer would not be able to reproduce, because the material or the size or the resolution is wrong. So 3D printing frequently ends up being a solution in search of a problem: You could create objects, but you don't know what to make.

For many years now I had overcome that issue by using my 3D printer for one of my other hobbies: Tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. Yes, you can use coins or beads or other small objects to represent the heroes and monsters of D&D. But printing a dragon or beholder or paladin at the right 1:60 scale, printing puzzles for the players to solve, or even whole dungeons as tiles is way cooler. It really helps with the suspension of disbelief if your dragon looks like a dragon instead of like a coffee mug.

The world today looks very different from the world three or six months ago. Some of the changes are big and scary, others are small and curious. I don't want to discuss the big and scary stuff here, at least not for the moment. So I'll talk about the small and curious changes instead: My Dungeons & Dragons games now look very different than they did before, they went virtual. I am playing on Roll20 instead of around a table. While one of my previous groups isn't playing at all anymore, because they didn't want to go virtual, the other group is now playing more than before. And we have been open-minded enough to realize that playing on a virtual tabletop does in fact even have certain advantages over playing around a real table. And one of the small advantages is that creating a good-looking hero or monster token for Roll20 is fast and easy using Google image search and a tool like TokenTool.

The weird result is that I haven't 3D printed anything for months now. As I can't sit with people around a real table anymore, I don't need 3D printed figurines anymore. And without that application, there isn't much else that I would want to 3D print.


3d printer owners I know are currently trying to supply healthcare workers with whatever spare stuff that can be printed
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