Image of a MakerBot Replicator 2 with example printed objects including a skull, diamond, and landing gear

3D Printing, Unexpected Consequences, and User Experience

Is this something that you would appreciate as a user?

The startup KeyMe, which says it’s trying to bring “innovation” to the locksmith industry, has launched a partnership with the 3-D printing marketplace Shapeways to let people print copies of their own keys on demand. They have an emergency lockout service that is available at 7-11s and Bed, Bath, and Beyond store locations in the New York, and they plan to expand to other cities soon. You could store a digital set of keys, and get them cut at these locations in an emergency. Read more at Co.Exist…

OK, now take a step back and look at the system more holistically. I am a big fan of understanding these unforeseen consequences because they often illustrate something interesting about cognitive science.

Do we become less careful when we know that we can always reprint ourselves a new set of housekeys if we need to? Does that increase theft because of all the keys we carelessly leave lying around?

Do we then insert chips into the keys (to prevent the thefts) and now we can’t 3D print them anymore (I have one of these in my car keys now)? Security trumps simplicity?

Do users generalize the bad habit of carelessness and start losing other things, even ones that can’t be reprinted back home?

What other systemic consequences might develop?

Image credit: “Makerbot Industries – Replicator 2 – 3D-printer 03” by Creative Tools used under CC BY

2 thoughts on “3D Printing, Unexpected Consequences, and User Experience”

  1. Will this cause carelessness? I’m not so sure. It still costs money to print new keys. They will likely be less durable then metal keys. And not to mention, it takes time to print them.

    One idea is to provide a way to recycle the printed keys. Lock yourself out of the house. Print a key. Once you no longer need that printed key, then possibly melt it down and reuse the material? This would cut down on cost and waste.

  2. I love the environmental responsibility of your solution. But then do we get even more careless because you have removed the cost? Now it is just a minute or two of electricity to run our printer.

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