3D Printing: The Next Big Thing?
Growing up, I was a big fan of Star Trek. I loved the idea of being able to speak into the computer and then have the computer responds or not. We now have that in the form of Google Voice and Apple’s Siri. We’re not at Star Trek levels yet, but give it another 15 years and we’ll be having arguments with our versions of Rosie from the Jetsons.
The science of Star Trek just got another boost when Maker-Bot announced their 3D Scanner at SXSW.
I’ve been following 3D printing for years now and am am fascinated by it’s implications and disruptive abilities.
The next 3 years are going to be very interesting….
MakerBot the leaders in consumer 3D printing have created a new 3D printing scanner that enables you to put an object in the scanner and then print it in 3D. You starting to get it? Anything that is 8 inches by 8 inches is reproducible with the press of a button. Over time, these printers are going to be bigger. I imagine that in 50 years this will be the future of shopping. You see a TV you like on a website, you press print, and in 30 minutes, you have the same model.
The road here.
Cory Doctorow wrote an excellent comic and then a book about the future of 3D printing. The original story called Print Crime appeared in his 2007 anthology Overclocked available for free here. In his story, 3D printing is policed and it’s illegal to reprint something without a license or the proper permission. Is this the future we are heading for? I think the answer is yes. In America, 3D printing will fall under the DMCA jurisdiction and the intellectual rights owners are going to do their best to prevent as much unauthorized printing as they possibly can. This means that we will need policing to monitor ‘replicators‘ and mechanisms or watermarks in place to protect the original content owners.
3D printing is not mainstream yet, it’s still relegated to the Makers of the world and to the hobbyist. In the near near future, it will be highly plausible that you will have somebody in your neighborhood known for the dark arts he or she 3D prints in their garage. Cottage industries will blossom overnight when you can’t find that door knob, or you have one chair leg that’s cracked or wobbly. These two examples are still thinking small, very small. The medical industry and construction industries are where the real stories lay.
The near future.
Imagine you are a chef making your favorite salad and you get distracted for a brief second, your chopping away and then you feel a rush of warm blood flowing down your finger. If you have someone with you, and they think quickly, the solution would be to put the finger on ice and pray that their hasn’t been too much nerve damage in the time it takes to sew it back on. With 3D printing the hospital would scan the opposite finger, print it out and reattach it Star Wars style. Luke Sky-walker’s robotic hand becomes a reality. I’m not saying that it’s happening now, but the science is reproducible. If we can grow an ear on a mouse, we can print out the middle finger.
Hollywood and Science Fiction have mostly had a good record when it comes to forseeing the future. Michael Bay was spot on when he released the Island in 2005. In this future, the rich are able to print out clones of themselves in case they fall victim to some sort of life threatening disaster. The science hasn’t quite caught up, but we’re close. Very close.
It’s now possible to print living cells. Surgeon Anthony Atala demonstrates an early-stage experiment that could someday solve the organ-donor problem: a 3D printer that uses living cells to output a transplantable kidney.
Our lab uses a desktop inkjet printer, but instead of using ink, we’re using cells. — Anthony Atala
3D-Printing in buildings.
The construction industry will forever change with 3D printing. Once the polymers and concretes get cheap enough 3D printing will take over traditional human building. The goods news is that this means housing will be a lot more affordable, buildings will be stronger, and construction will take a fraction of the time once developers get used to the process.
The biggest 3D printed building will be the Landscape House by architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars. This 3D building is being printed with a printer named the D-Shape by inventor Enrico Dini. The printer works by shooting out thousands of layers of sand in 20 by 30 foot block sections. These blocks will then be used to form the building. The Landscape House will cost between $5 million to $6 million dollars and be completed in 2014.
The MakerBot will be remembered as the pioneer in consumer 3D printing, but HP will make it popular. I am very lucky to be alive in this world. I will have my own Luke Skywalker hand, I’ll be living in my 3D sand blasted house on Tatooine, and printing out my own light saber. We’re living in Nerdvana. 3D printing is just in in it’s infancy, but trust me life just got a lot more interesting. 3D Printing is a great disruptor now, but the future is already making room for 4D. But, if you want to stay in the present MakerBot is having a sign up campaign to purchase the scanner here.