You know, for dorks.

The Jetsons are coming!

OK, so we don't have robot house maids yet, and you can't just push a button to get Thanksgiving dinner in 20 seconds. But you can already get a 3D printer to make things at home.

3D printing, you guys. It is so so cool!

3D printer

Here's something that I think will be possible in the future: you are going out to a nice restaurant, but you've got no shoes to match your dress. You go to some web site (maybe Amazon or Zappos if they've adapted) and download a 3D model of some shoes. Your computer already has a 3D model of your foot, and some piece of software adjusts the model you've just downloaded to fit your foot. You click the print button and hop in the shower.

Many moons later, when your shoes wear out, you clean them up and toss them in a home recycling machine. Whatever material was used will be converted back to a raw material, ready to be printed again.

Of course, shoes are fun to think about, but think of the other things you can print. New sunglasses (frames at first, and lenses when the technology gets better), games and toys, photo frames. Jesse will be out in the garage printing engine parts. The possibilities are pretty limitless.

If we can get to the point where sustainable/recyclable materials are used (and I think we can (and by "we", I mean people who do this for a living)), imagine the environmental impact. How many stupid things did you buy on Amazon last year? Did you really need a 4' x 2' box with a mile of air-filled plastic to carry you a new lens cap for your camera? No, you didn't.

The home printers are mostly using plastic at this point. But there are metal, glass, and wood printers, too. Boeing is already printing airplane parts. I read that they hope to print whole aircraft wings in the future. How cool is that? The printed wings can be lighter because they won't need rivets or other connectors.

Another exciting thing is bio printing. As a skin graft recipient, I'm especially interested in the inkjet printers that make human skin. Scientists are working on emergency skin printers to treat burn victims or people in war zones. There are also people working to print human organs. That's right, instead of waiting for a donor to die and worrying about possible rejection from an organ transplant, your own cells will be used to print you a new heart.

I feel like we're already living in the future, but that's a whole different blog post. This 3D printing thing is just mind-bogglingly cool.

2/18/2013     4 comments