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3D Printing Comes Home

04/23/2013

Janos Stone 98 SC believes in putting the creative powers of technology into the hands of the common man (and woman and child). That’s why he developed Mecube, a mobile application that brings 3D printing to the masses.

“Mecube is super intuitive,” says Stone, “and it seamlessly connects users directly to 3D printers and fulfillment. This means that anyone can design a 3D object on their phone or tablet and hold it in their hands a few days later.”

If you’ve heard anything about 3D printing, you’re probably thinking that this would be a pricey endeavor. In fact, Mecube allows users to design small, simple objects (think of a tiny toy robot or a pair of dice) for anywhere from $5 to a few hundred dollars, depending on the material used. High-end options include titanium and premium silver, but Stone favors inexpensive full-color sandstone, which provides novice designers with hundreds of thousands of color options.

After introducing the app in late March, Stone is able to watch remotely as it catches on in the US and overseas. “At first I started to see little experiments, and now I’m seeing 10 designs per day,” he says. “I’m watching people learn how to use this thing!” 

Now Stone is working on applying the technology behind Mecube to educational tools. “It uses color and volume and standard metric units,” he explains, “so it automatically lends itself to simple math, physics and engineering problems.” His target audience for Mecube 2.0 is schoolchildren between the ages of six and 10. Younger kids generally don’t have the basic understanding of spatial concepts needed to use the application. “And as an artist, I want to make sure that creativity is embedded in all of the assignments,” he says.

Is Stone concerned about people misusing his application – to print guns, for instance? “Somebody is going to figure out a negative way to use any technology,” he says. “But Mecube is not meant to make complicated products. You wouldn’t be able to use it to make a pistol.”

In the future, apps like Mecube will allow consumers to personalize products. “When you’re shopping for something specific you have in mind, you might see things that are very close. So you either don’t buy them or you settle,” Stone says. “These applications would allow you to slightly change the size or the color.”

Stone is developing this idea using simple items like flatware or tableware. He envisions people shopping online for digital files and then personalizing them to get exactly what they want. It sounds futuristic, but he and others are predicting that this type of application is only two or three years away.

Although he has obviously moved on, Stone says that when he was at RISD he “wanted to learn nothing but traditional sculpture techniques, which I’m sure was frustrating for the department.” He has since taught sculpture and other classes at Brown and Pratt, and he’s currently teaching at Northeastern.

“Mecube is the culmination of my years of teaching sculpture,” says Stone. “I made a tool that essentially teaches everybody about sculpture.”

–Simone Solondz

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tags: alumni, digital, Sculpture

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RISD has a long history of offering Saturday and after-school classes for children and teens, as this photo from c. 1910 confirms.