April 5, 2015
Remember how 3D printing was all the rage in 2013 and everyone and their grandmother imagined a world where you could make anything you wanted to just by printing it? 3D printers had “arrived” and they promised a fascinating future – the only limitation, it seemed was our imagination.
The reality is that printing has been around for about six hundred years so it makes me scratch my head as to why all the excitement around this “new” way of printing. After all, 3D printing has been around since the 1980s; NASA, as well as medical manufacturers, has been using it for years, producing things like hearing aids.
There are, however, new applications of 3D printing that we should be genuinely excited about. For instance, the idea that instead of printing on paper with ink, a scientist would now be able to print tissues with cells sounds cool; we’ll be able to make organs! What’s more, for technology that has been around for a while, it’s the consumer application that has everyone excited. People are dreaming and salivating at the possibilities of what they could do if a 3D printer became an everyday household item like your oven. Take a look at “I imagine a furniture cloud driven by 3D printing,” a piece that reflects exactly this kind of mindset, written by Richie Etwaru:
“Lets imagine …
It is 2030, and I am living in a beach house … I have a large plastic dining table, six plastic chairs, two plastic Adirondack chairs outside on the deck looking at the beach, and a plastic desk for work … I have eight friends coming over for some cocktails and finger foods. So I need 10 short sitting stools and five short small square tables.
The night before the event, I start to fetch all of my plastic furniture into the back yard, and dumping them into a large incinerator, where they are crushed, turned to liquids that are separated based on raw material … I download the design of some short stools, and the design of some short square tables. I pick a color, and I start to print my new furniture. Yes, my 3D printer is in the basement, it is a large room. I run out of blue coloring, so the darn furniture turns out orange, but its OK, because my friends are Republicans anyway, and they will get a kick out of me running out of blue coloring.”
If this all comes true then we can say that 3D printing is a real game changer. But for consumers, it’s 2015 and we are still patiently waiting. I can’t help but wonder what effect that would have on the supply chain of raw materials. Entire supply chains would be disrupted if we no longer needed to buy all our furniture (especially outdoor) from a furniture store. We’ll need to get raw materials like plastic instead.
It’s almost the opposite of what happened with the food industry. Food was made at home initially; preparation went out of the home and into restaurants. Then it became factories making “food” and sending it back to consumers.
One thing that really excites me is the possibility of precision for edible treats and displays to become a reality for the common person. People will then start to look into molecular compositions of food, which could be big for health. And Instagram accounts, like Cooking for Bae, that show baking fails might soon run out of content, thanks to products like the ChefJet and ChefJet Pro (3D printers that will be able to substitute sugar for ink to produce reliably beautiful, edible treats – yum).
So, in the end it’s the tasty stuff like chocolate, cakes and cookies that win and would be a much better use of 3D printing in my humble opinion. Your prints may not save the world but at least they’ll taste better.
So, what would you build if you could build anything in your home? What 3D sketch would you send to that printer?
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