Interacting with personal fabrication devices
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ISSN der Zeitschrift
it - Information Technology: Vol. 60, No. 2
Personal fabrication tools, such as 3D printers, are on the way of enabling a future in which non-technical users will be able to create custom objects. While the hardware is now affordable and the number of people who own a 3D printer is increasing, only few create new 3D models. Most users download models from a 3D model database and after downloading fabricate them on their 3D printers. At most, users adjust a few parameters of the model, such as changing its color or browsing between predetermined shape options. I argue that personal fabrication has the potential for more: Instead of only consuming existing content, I envision a future in which non-technical users will create objects only trained experts can create today. While there are many open challenges for human-computer interaction, such as abstracting away the necessary domain and machine knowledge, I focus on improving the interaction model underlying current personal fabrication devices. In this article, I illustrate why today’s interaction model for personal fabrication tools is not suitable for non-technical users. For this, I draw an analogy to the development of the user interface in personal computing and show how solutions developed by human-computer interaction researchers over the last decades can be applied to this new domain. I analyze the challenges when creating interactive systems for personal fabrication and describe six research prototypes I built to overcome these challenges. I discuss the limitations of these systems and conclude with an overview of recent advancements in personal fabrication that will allow us to go beyond what is possible today.