Ray, 36, learned the tenets of prepping—gardening, chopping wood, storing water, and canned food—from his grandparents in Portland, Oregon. When he deployed to Iraq, he added shooting and groupthink to his repertoire of end-of-world aptitudes. Self-reliance, the highest prepper virtue, is his driving principle.Part of a small and controversial subset of preppers, Ray approaches self-reliance a little differently from his more backwoods survivalist brothers. Also known as the 3D Prepper, Ray, who currently lives in Germany, believes that one of the most versatile tools for survival is none other than the 3D printer."The connection was instantaneous," he explained. "I can create tools much more functional than what's already out there."More traditional preppers consider the idea absurd. When Western civilization crumbles, they argue, no technology will be functional after a decade (or ten) of post-apocalypse primal living.*Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing enables users to prototype models on their computers before printing them layer-by-layer on their 3D printer. Printing materials include plastic, nylon, resins, and titanium. Designs for everything from soap dishes to wrenches are offered free and open-source on websites like Thingiverse.com, which hosts nearly 600,000 digital models.
Mike, a prepper who lives outside Chicago, also raved about the printer's versatility in survival contexts. Like Ray, Mike collected hobbies on a farm in rural Wisconsin. Canning, gardening, carpentry and blacksmithing are just a few of the tricks he keeps in his back pocket for the next sky-is-falling scenario he lives through. His first was Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
Whatever he needs, should disaster strike, would be just a few clicks away.
Steve Spence, a technologist and prepper who's lived off-grid for nearly a decade, thinks these accusations fail to address the energy industry's progress toward sustainable, reliable power sources over the last few decades. His home in South Carolina is powered by wind turbines and solar panels. Once he picks up a few animals, he plans to install a methane generator.
"The preppers I know may consider such tech as a matter of prepping, but not as a tool to be used actively when adapting to rapidly changing conditions"