Transform Ideas

Transform Ideas: Take Something That Already Exists and Make Something Better. | Debra Langley

My daughter and I are busy renovating an apartment together. The challenge is to transform ideas that were popular and fashionable a few years back and create a new space with extra special touches and sleek decor elements that appeals to buyers today. 

This explain why both of us are glued to the television screen each evening as we soak up the latest episode of The Block Australia finding inspiration and décor ideas that we both like that will spruce up our interior.

Last night, watching the latest episode I was intrigued by an invention I have never seen before – a 3D concrete printer. The engineers set it up, type in the required house plan and voila, layers of concrete are neatly squeezed from it into neat little rows. You can quite literally watch a house take shape in one day.

My dad was a construction engineer, and I grew up running around building sites and admiring his latest work of art, but never had I seen anything like this in action before. So immediately, out popped my laptop and I started googling 3D concrete printers. Who invented it? How long has it been around and why has it evaded my knowledge up until now?

Transform Ideas: 3D Concrete Printers

Google revealed that way back in 1998, Behrohk Khoshnevis at the University of Southern California developed Contour Crafting, which was the first layered extrusion device for concrete. Where had I been for 25 years, never to have heard of this before?

A computer-controlled crane automated the pouring process and could create smooth contoured surfaces, fully controlling the system. Of course, I had to save the site, download the images, and show my dad who has since retired and who I thought would be as fascinated by the process as I was. He did take a look but didn’t seem quite as excited by the machine as I was.

There I was tempted to research it in a lot more detail and share my discovery and the history behind 3D printing with you – luckily for you – a break in concentration made me question, did I want to teach you about 3D printing? Or did I want to use this magnificent invention to illustrate another point all together? You might not be as intrigued by the process as I am so I will spare you the details, and if you are fascinated to learn more a quick entry into your browser search will open hundreds of pages of fascinating stories.

Quite a few years before this, regular 3D printing came into existence or the idea of it anyway. The general concept and procedure were described by  Murray Leinster in his 1945 short story Things Pass By. That’s a long time ago, then it must have been frowned upon by many as some elusive pipe dream or perhaps a bystander could’ve sworn the ingestion of some foreign plant.

Today it might seem a bit like a self-driving car or one that can both drive and fly though the air at the same time. Perhaps, at the time you are reading this, a self-driving vehicle might already be your preferred means of transport, (because we know just how long it takes for a book to get published.)

Raymond F. Jones mentioned it again 1950 in his article titles “Tools of the Trade” which was published in the November issue of Astounding Science Fiction magazine – he called it a “molecular spray”. A perfect description of something that was yet to exist. Then a few years later in the blink of eye it truly was possible to print things that before only existed in your imagination Material could be deposited, joined, or solidified under the control of a computer. Plastics, liquids and powder grains could be added together layer by layer.

It started off as a pipe dream. Someone came along believed in the dream as well and invented it! That which was only a dream to Leinster and Jones, now exists.

That is how creativity and innovation work. Rarely does something pop into existence in the blink of an eye. It is usually something that already exists that sparks off thinking or sends your mind wandering off in a completely new direction. Just like 3D printing – if you can layer plastics, liquids, and powders together in a matter of minutes, why not cement? This sent thinking off into a completely new direction. Can we build hundreds of new homes in a matter of hours instead of years?

The University of Johannesburg in collaboration with the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), have successfully launched South Africa’s first ever ‘printed’ building using a 3D concrete printer. This is mind blowing, they are still researching the possibility and feasibility of erecting hundreds of low-cost houses in short time frames as well. I eagerly watch in anticipation to hear and see more about this exciting new venture in the months to come.

To sum it up, it started with out-of-the-box thinking in the minds of Leinster and Jones more than 75 years ago, so that today we can build a house in a matter of hours, and someone can have a roof over their heads.

That’s the point of this article, never underestimate or undervalue the power of your thinking or your ideas. Keep sharing them with others, you might just be the next Leinster or Jones already.

Walk around with your eyes wide open, look for things to spark ideas and send your mind off aimlessly in new directions and then take something that already exists and turn it into something bigger, better or something altogether new. Austin Klein advocates this in his book ‘Steal Like An Artist’.

It started with a flat refurbishment, and episode of The Block Australia and then research into the engineering field of 3D printing.  That’s exactly how marvellous and unrelated our thinking should be.

So now – do we go with the black and tiles, a cement screed floor or try and restore old parquet flooring?

Cultivating a Culture of Innovation & Creativity

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