Readers of MAKE don’t need me to tell them that 3D printing is well on its way to crossing over into mainstream culture. While this is mostly a good thing, it can come with some drawbacks. The thing about a big disruptive technology is that it disrupts some people who like the way things are. And, eventually, every big disruption starts to catch the attention of the government.
That’s why, as we have since 2011, on May 7th Public Knowledge is hosting 3D/DC in Washington, DC.* Simply put, 3D/DC is a chance for the 3D printing world to come together and show Members of Congress and other policymakers what they are all about. By putting faces behind the technology, we make it easier for policymakers to separate hype from reality and ask questions from experts.
As Congress starts to pay more attention to 3D printing, it is important that early contacts are positive ones. Policymakers need to understand all of the fantastic things that are coming out of 3D printing, and to recognize that overreactions to 3D printing may stifle them in the future.
At its core, 3D/DC is designed to give policymakers real, in-person contact with the technology and people behind 3D printing. The highlight of the event is a public demonstration (public as in you RSVP here if you are going to be near DC on May 7th) in the US Capitol. It also includes some less public one-on-one and small group meetings that will help create 3D printing allies going forward. The Congressional Maker Caucus will help us give Members a place to come together to learn about 3D printing and other maker technologies throughout the year.
Why do this now? After all, with one possible exception, 3D printing is still squarely in its government honeymoon phase. Why not wait until there is a problem? Because the honeymoon phase is the time to start laying groundwork and building relationships. Getting out ahead of any policy concerns today will make it much easier to protect 3D printing going forward tomorrow.
So if you are in DC on May 7th come on down. Help show Congress what great things are happening in 3D printing, and give them a taste of what is coming.
* If we’ve been doing this since 2011, why is 2014 only the third 3D/DC? Because 2012 was OH/DC: Open Source Hardware Comes to DC, of course.
Michael Weinberg is Acting Co-President at Public Knowledge, a nonprofit advocacy group that represents consumers on technology issues in Washington, DC. He is also also the author of a number of whitepapers including It Will Be Awesome if They Don’t Screw it Up: 3D Printing, Intellectual Property, and the Fight Over the Next Great Disruptive Technology and What’s the Deal with Copyright. and 3D Printing? Follow him @MWeinbergPK