3D printing has become the stepping stone to replicator technology used in the Star Trek entertainment franchise. Capable of deconstructing and reconstructing matter at a molecular level, the Starship Enterprise’s Replicator provided the crew with food, drink, oxygen, clothing, and any other inanimate object they would need on their long voyage through space. Our technology isn’t that far along yet, but experiments on a molecular level are underway.
Current 3D printing consist of layering a multitude of materials such as plastics, glass, metal, polymers, human tissue, wax, sand+glue mixtures, and even edible food. Instead of printing ink on a two-dimensional plane like paper, the materials are actually printed on top of one another in thin layers, drying quickly so that the next layer can be printed, and so on.
Already 3D printers are being used to print things like toys, candy, concrete shelters, guns, artificial meat for consumption, prosthetics like a collagen ear, and yes, even liver tissue for pharmaceutical testing. The next step, although progress is small in this field, will be creating functioning human organs.
The evolution of 3D printing could have a tremendous impact on our way of life. In the very near future, you’ll be able to go on the internet, buy something, and instead of waiting for them to ship it, you can choose a 3D blueprint option instead. You can then print it out right there in your home. It’ll be pretty nice to eliminate the wait time, but it’s effect on the economy could go either way, and not to mention the infringement of copyrights and patents.
Consumer 3D printers are available now starting at close to the $500 range while commercial and industrial size printers run you substantially more. It won’t be long before anyone can go down to your local Office Max and pick up the latest 3D printer on the shelf. Although, by purchasing the raw materials for the printer, you may spend a pretty penny.
How do you think 3D printing will affect our current lifestyle and economy? We wanna hear your thoughts in the comments.