Friday, April 29, 2011

3D Printers Are Changing The World

I happened to pick up The Economist yesterday and a particular article Print Me A Stradivarius blew me away.  Since so many things came to be from the Star Trek era, I always wondered how they were going to solve the replicator problem of producing objects from thin air.  What I learned from the article is that they're actually in the early stages of 3D print machines that sit on your desktop and print anything you want to your specifications. To make things easier, they even have 3D scanners that scan objects into a program that will print them out in 3D as well.  

For instance, for the consumer the MakerBot has one of the cheapest desktop 3D printers on the market for around $1,250.  You can basically make anything you want in these machines, at least that's what they say.  The amount of time to make something depends on its complexity, but it generally doesn't take more than a few hours.  They even have templates of various objects on to use to print out what you need.  Need a door knob? A lamp? An iPhone case?  Have an idea for a model or invention?  Are you an architect who would like a model of your building?  Just hit the print button.

A brief demo at a new technology conference of the MakerBot desktop consumer model.

An example of how someone who lives far from the city can obtain a part for a lamp in less than an hour.  No postage or gas required.

They also have 3D scanners that scan objects into software that can replicate the object in the 3D printer in couple of hours.

They can scan a human head and reproduce it exactly with a 3D printer.  Of course this means in the future maybe you can trick your boss to make him think you're at your desk when you're really taking the day off.

3D printing is great for architects especially who are likely drooling over the technology.

Of course what much of this means is in the future when this technology really takes off, people on the factory lines will be out of work.  Such is why 3D printers have been referred to as the "jobless technology".  The other danger of this technology as it becomes more advanced is that people won't need to buy much of the stuff they can make at home with their own machines.  Intellectual property law will likely be revolutionized as well with this new 3D technology.