What to do when the Armies of Darkness are looming on your doorstep? The 3D Prepper forgoes the boomstick and the chainsaw for a 3D printer.
Disaster preparedness used to mean mean keeping some flares or bottled water in your car — today, there’s a whole subculture of “preppers.” They’re not just preparing for the occasional power outage. They’re talking about the end of the world.
Spend some time reading up on the prepper blogs and you’ll start to get a glimpse of survivalist strategy — keeping a “bug out” bag ready for when SHTF (google it) or scouting remote locations to “hunker down” while civilization collapses.
But what’s actually going to help when the zombies rise up or the nuclear bombs start flying?
Maybe… a 3D Printer?
That’s what Jason Ray thinks, otherwise known as the 3D Prepper. For Ray, being open source is about being self reliant. His Twitter profile picture is a mash-up of “Don’t Tread on Me” libertarianism and Linux hacktivism.
A recent profile for Vice’s Motherboard stresses that with Ray, it’s more about sufficiency than survival. He says, “I can make replacement parts for things that broke. Instead of buying a new drill for $120, I 3D printed some gears. It’s been working for years now.”
This doesn’t sound like the kind of Reddit lurkers that plan for civilization to collapse. It sounds like something any 3D printing enthusiast might say.
So instead of an every day carry — the survivalist’s daily equipment at the ready in case they never make it home again — Ray lists what he carries for his 3D printing projects every day; rubbing alcohol and tiny screwdrivers.
In comparison to the pistols and knives that grace the daily carries that other survivalists photograph and share online, it’s almost, well, sweet.
Is the 3D Prepper for Real?
But still, the whole thing feels a bit ridiculous — even within the already pretty far out prepper community, the idea of 3D prepping is fringe.
Part of prepping is being able to live without technology — think crank radios and emergency solar-powered LEDS. In big-time emergency situations, survivalists imagine bunkers and mountainous lairs, not scenarios with the time and space to 3D print.
As recent natural disasters that have left many without electricity show, it is a pretty reasonable assumption that in the aftermath of a hurricane or earthquake, there might not be the electricity necessary to power a 3D printer. Wouldn’t the figurines and knick-knacks on Thingiverse be kind of a last priority in this scenario?
But Ray and his 3D prepping cohort have got that covered, too: if it’s less about heading to the hills to hide out and more about simply living independently and sustainably off the grid, there are plenty of car battery or solar-powered options available — we’ve even written about the usefulness of 3D printing in disaster relief efforts!
But somehow this angle — using 3D printing to highlight sustainable forms of manufacturing outside traditional supply chain models that might, sure, break down — is a tough sell when the competition focuses on post-apocalyptic thrillers. The version of the dystopian future where off-the-grid farmers print their own tools just isn’t as high-octane as the Mad Max future some preppers plan for.
So what’s the relationship between Open Source and self-reliance?
Is there room enough in the survivalist movement for hacktivists and people who collect rainwater off the grid AND the Left Behind people?
There’s certainly a lot of entertainment value in the prepper community — the ever popular Doomsday Preppers on National Geographic proves it. But the 3D prepping movement gets at something even more unsettling — that it might not all be nonsense, after all.
If you’re interested in finding out more, the 3D Prepper has released a Kindle book, “3D Printing for Preparedness“.
Ray describes it as “a book to help you understand how you can implement low-cost and open source 3D printing into your preparedness toolkit. It’s meant to be your starting point so that you have a foundation to build on for yourself.”
If that’s not exciting enough for you, there’s also the more tongue-in-cheek “Zombie Apocalypse Guide to 3D Printing” by Clifford T. Smyth.
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