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Portraying Fragments Of The Earth's Atmosphere With A 3D Printer

This 3D printer visualizes the environment like never before.

Atmospheric analysis of diverse chemical components in a topographical area sounds like an overly complex spell from Harry Potter, but it's actually the purpose of an innovative new tool from FABMOB called ATMOStag.

FABMOB—which stands for fabrication + mobility—is a group that combines 3D printers and computer hardware to push the boundaries of maker/hacker art, design and technology. ATMOStag is a new FABMOB project that combines environmental sensor hardware, the Internet, and 3D printing tech to transform topographical data into a real-world infographic.


The innovative new tool uses its sensors to measure the time, location, ambient light, temperature, noise level, humidity, carbon dioxide levels, and carbon monoxide levels of a single moment in time. The device takes all that data, interprets it, and 3D prints a tangible, bumpy square called an ATMOStag tile. The ATMOStag tile represents all of the above-mentioned topographical conditions of the area at the time of 3D printing. After you print it out, you mount it at the print site, effectively representing the environmental conditions of the surrounding area through a colorful, textured shard. The tiles look like this:

Each tile has a URL that connects it to a database powered by Smart Citizen. Smart Citizen is an organization founded to gather climate data from a decentralized user base all over the world. In the process, the folks at Smart Citizen hope to build an infrastructure for data-gathering that will lead to all sorts of environmental improvements through big data. The group's network is the first part of six that make up the ATMOStag unit. Through Smart Citizen, the ATMOStag data makes a home on the web that can be accessed and used by anyone with an Internet connection.

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Parts two, three and four involve taking the Smart Citizen data and turning it into code that the printer can read before turning into a tile. Part five is choosing the ATMOStag tile's color, flexibility and transparency of the material. Your choice is based on where and how you're setting the tile up.


Finally, part six is the exciting act of printing the tile out. You send it to a 3D printer via WiFi or 4G and—after an extended printing period—it pops right out.

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"Why go through all this trouble just to create a strange, bumpy tile?" you might ask. Well the folks at FABMOB have a simple answer. "By representing that which cannot otherwise be seen," they say, "ATMOStag is an act of public design, a gesture of urban communication, an example of contemporary generative practices and a singular expression of the convergence of art, science and technology."

On top of that, ATMOStag allows anyone to check and balance government and corporate environmental data. These little art pieces allow for direct action against previously unopposed behemoths of environmental regulation, and they look cool to boot.

For information about how to get or make your own ATMOStag unit, check out the FABMOB website here.

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