Home Guest Posts Copy, transform, combine: Remixing at Thingiverse

Copy, transform, combine: Remixing at Thingiverse

Have you ever wondered where all the designs come from, that we print with our 3D printers? Four German researchers have explored this questions on the platform Thingiverse and published their findings in a scientific article.

In a recently published scientific article in the “Journal of Information Technology” the researchers Christoph Flath, Marco Wirth, and Frédéric Thiesse from the University of Wuerzburg  and Sascha Friesike from the VU Amsterdam investigate how users of the platform Thingiverse reuse existing designs in order to create new ones – a process known as remixing in the community.

“Blockbot V3.1” published by the designer “msruggles”

The article explores four aspects of remixing. First, it discusses the role of remixing. The researchers show that remixing is the basis for half of the designs available on Thingiverse and therefore a crucial component of the platform’s success. Furthermore, the four authors unravel that remixes follow specific patterns and show that all the remixing-activity on Thingiverse can be explained by eight basic patterns. They also show, how the platform has grown since the introduction of a simple remix feature right in the browser window (so called customizer). Additionally, the four explain how remixing as a creative tool is adopted by different user groups. The article provides an insightful view behind the scenes of Thingiverse and shows how the open online community benefits from the possibility that users can build on each other’s ideas.

Sascha Friesike from the KIN Research Group of the VU Amsterdam explains:

“As researchers we have known for a long time, that most ideas are based on existing knowledge. However, it is very difficult to show that. If we go to a company and ask them where their idea comes from, they will tell us, that they came up with all of it on their own. We know that this is not true, but most of the time we are unable to show it. Within the 3D printing community the reuse is explicitly allowed and the mandatory declaration of the sources of inspiration allow us academics to explore how ideas evolve. In doing so, we show how much creative potential open knowledge entails. Besides a creative and passionate community, Thingiverse contains so many great designs because designers can inspire each other and nobody needs to fear that reusing someone else’s ideas might be frowned upon or downright illegal.”

The article  is published – in true maker community fashion – under a Creative Commons license and is therefore readable und reusable by anyone.