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.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013
rubber ducky
Hey, you can win a MakerBot Replicator 2X Experimental 3D Printer!

I think you should patent your downloadable shoes idea, wait for someone to implement it, hire a lawyer, and $profit$. After all, you were the first to think of doing it over the internet.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
For my money I won't be living in the future until I'm sitting at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

Sure, 3D printers are swell, but can they print soil, water, pollinators? If not, the hypothetical meal you eat while wearing your custom 3D printed shoes may well be a synthetic 3D printed foodstuff. You don't think all those printed organs are going to transplants do you? Why perfect printing skin if not to batter and deep fry it (batter and deep fry 3D printing media sold separately). The real money is in feeding billions of people, not in keeping a few million unlucky ones alive (of course increased 3D printing in the diet may require more replacement 3D printed organs). Bio-printing is a slippery slope to a plate full of Mobius bacon strips. Holy crap! I thought I was being inventive and sufficiently sarcastic, but apparently the non-edible version of this is already old news (see link above). Maybe I'm living in the future after all.

I mentioned soil, water and pollinators, etc., because we are 10,000 years into one of our first great futuristic innovations (agriculture), and we continue to screw that up. It remains far from sustainable. In order to feed ourselves, we happily mine soil, water, fossil fuels and other natural resources dramatically faster than replacement rates, with all kinds of collateral damage to our environment and our health. So, in fact, we are living in the future, or more properly, we are consuming the future right out from under ourselves (and future ourselves).

With all due respect to the coolness and utility of 3D printing and all the other cool things we've been able to accomplish on the back of a destructive sustenance system, I'd vote for working on the more fundamental 10,000 year old problem of feeding ourselves in a reliable way, with minimal unintended consequences, before putting too much effort into the custom printing of shoes, Mobius bacon, Yoda busts, etc.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Sorry, Howdy, but you can't rain on this parade. Sure, it might not solve any eco-crises, but 3D printing is still extremely cool. :)
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
I agreed that 3D printing is extremely cool. I am socially conditioned to think that things like 3D printing are extremely cool. My question is why isn't it equally cool to think about, advocate for, and work on, a food system that isn't aiming to kill us on many levels? Why is that the Debbie Downer moment instead of the hopeful futuristic moment? Is everyone too busy parading in hypothetical botspoke shoes to appreciate the importance of the rain that makes parading possible?