How 3-D printing will change the world


As computer technology advances, it is only a matter of time until a slice of pie can be rapidly printed using the periodic elements like a contemporary 3-d printer uses plastics.  .  A computer and printer can build from the molecule to the whole object.  At some point we will be able to buy a code for a new product online and print it in miniutes.  It is theoretically possible to print anything from an apple to another printer....  The need for centralised industry will cease to exist.  As a result, the need for the infrastructure that supports it will also cease to exist.  No need for ports, stores, ups.....Much of the physical architypes that we have today will become obsolete.  If you think this is far fetched, take a look at how quickly a  thing like netflix  made the traditional video store obsolete. What are your thoughts on this.  What are the social and political implications of such a change?  Will the gov't eventually limit our freedom on the internet inorder to prevent someone from printing a gun or a grenade?  What do you think the timeline is for this technology to reach its ultimate potential?

Mar 27, 13 4:30 pm
drums please, Fab?


when the u.s. switches to the metric system

Mar 27, 13 4:42 pm  · 


I see this being 40-50 years out. At least to get to what you are talking about with Star Trek-esque "Replicators"

Mar 27, 13 4:51 pm  · 
curtkram <- not the same as mail-order dvd distribution.

printing a gun would be easier than combining atoms...

i would link to defense distributed's wiki weapon project, but i'm not sure i want them to have any more publicity than they already have.

Mar 27, 13 5:07 pm  · 

Your basic assumptions are incorrect. Netflix didn't make video stores obsolete, cable television and movies on demand did. Centralized industry no longer exists, it is distributed industry. Products are assembled from parts and products produced around the world.

As to your molecular printer, very futurologistic, but you've ignored critical issues such as the power necessary to run such a hypothetical device, which could be orders of magnitude beyond the power necessary to run the Large Hadron Collider (which, it should be noted, does not actually create anything but rather destroys participles a few at a time). For reference, elements are created in large nuclear furnaces, like the sun.

And if you plan on using existing matter for your molecular printing process, you will either have to import it - requiring a global transportation network for raw materials - or you will have to have technology for elemental transmutation, i.e., turning lead into gold.

In regard to technology's ultimate potential, all you have to do is look at the profusion of garbage and waste polluting the biosphere (like the great Pacific Garbage Patch, for example) to realize we passed it long ago.

As for printing an apple, who knows how they are programmed? I'll stick to the ones that grow on trees.

Mar 27, 13 5:56 pm  · 

Creating elements is probably not possible in the near future but molecules may be. Of course we would need quantum computers. It's probably only 50-100 years away. 100years ago we didn't even have tv. Yeah. I'm not saying this is a good thing either.

Mar 27, 13 6:54 pm  · 

Come on Miles you just coldly killed all the fun in the conversation, try to be a kid. 

I do believe 3D printing WILL decentralise many industries, and I hope it does. To what extent I don't know, and I don't think anyone does. To TRANSFORM common materials in a region to different kind of matter may be possible in the future, I don't see why not. After all thats what chemical engineers do at a lesser extent. 


Mar 27, 13 8:08 pm  · 

Due to the tremendous investment required to develop
this technology and the humongous power requirements necessary to operate it, as well as the global sourcing and refining of the purest elements for use as raw material, only the most powerful corporations would have the capability to even attempt to develop such a device.

Once one has, they will surely not mass produce the technology, but instead use it to develop unique products that could not otherwise be made. The very first applications would no doubt be military in nature, such as nanoscale survellience and weaponry. Imagine a self assembling bomb delivered to the target dispersed as a cloud of sub-microscopic particles, which upon arrival, assemble into a nuclear weapon and detonate. Or clouds of microscopic survellience drones simultaneously transmitting realtime audio/video/infrared/emf info the corporate master. Industrial espionage would no doubt be a primary use.

Mar 28, 13 12:00 am  · 

People like to buy objects; full, complete, no-assemble-required objects. I think thats why far more people buy nice, clean imacs then spend the time to customize and assemble their own computers from scratch. 

I see 3d printing catching on with a small subset for early adopters but I don't see the general population taking the time to educate themselves, purchase the printer, purchase the printing material and spend their time to 3d print an object that they can purchase online or in a store in a fraction of the time.

Also, it takes time to learn how to use a 3d printer, never mind learning the nuances of using it well. It's not as simple as pressing a button and a nuclear weapon comes out. Claims like that are more science fiction than anything and show that people don't really understand what the actual technology is realistically capable of.

Mar 28, 13 10:40 am  · 
wurdan freo

No one used computers in 1976 either. How many people have a smart phone or an ipad now?

The technology will evolve to make it user friendly. When it becomes mass consumed, it will no longer be called 3d-printing, but something like "i-build". It will be consumer friendly and something that makes life more convenient. If its not then it will stay on the fringe.

20-30 years for in home inorganic products. 100 years for jetson style meals. Power won't be a problem as soon as "Mr. Fusion" is online. 

Mar 28, 13 12:10 pm  · 

Mr. Fusion will be a weapon long before it is a consumer product.

Mar 28, 13 1:18 pm  · 

I don't know when or if this technology will ever trickle down to the macroscale, but I think there is a valid point in this: If someone told me twenty years ago that printers would exist that could make 3-dimensional body parts, scale models, etc., I would have laughed at them.

But I come from a time where we had a Commodore 64 and the dot matrix printer. When I was a kid, the idea of a hybrid vehicle wasn't impossible, but it was unlikely. Now we have several alternately-powered vehicles on the road and there is a stronger push towards finding alternate ways to transport ourselves (a resurgence of the late 70's).  Technology has progressed in leaps and bounds since the mid-70's. I'm not saying this is good or bad, but I am still amazed by laser engravers, ipads, and the internet in general. My first music experiences were on vinyl, and now they are wireless. I grew up with a typewriter and a rotary phone. I'm not saying we're "evolving", but with the rapid rate of technology increasing over the years, I have to admit that we are moving towards something-- we just don't know what yet.

I would say that I don't think the 3-d printer will ever be an in-home product, but had you told me twenty years ago that we would have smartphones or iPads or even all of the new building materials we have now, I would have probably said the same thing at the time. And it's not just here-- looking at architecture, especially, and the technological advances in countries around the world (many due to algorithmic design, and yes, 3-D printing),  there is a valid point that these things that seem amazing or far-fetched to us now could be easily assimilated into society within 20-30 years. It's really just dependent on what the governments mandate as acceptable, I would assume. It's all about adaptation, and in our society, the majority seem eager to adapt to the next up-and-coming things. If the industry figures out ways to mass-produced controlled products, it is possible that someday they may discover a way, if they can't recreate something within a printer-format, to transport a solid digitally in theory (in fact, this is already happening with individual molecules with quantum teleportation.)

But, I digress...I just want to know where my Jetson-mobile is.


Apr 2, 13 3:11 pm  · 

My theory is simple, If it makes life more convienient, and if someone can make money off of it, it will find its way into our homes once the technology exists.  People have an insatiable desire to make life easier.  I am skepticle of things that promise to make the world better, because altruism usually only goes so far in the free market, but greed and lazyness....thats another story.  Most of our technology is used for convienience and war...These are a few of our our favorite things.....

Guess its why architects have such a hard time...we are always trying to make life richer or make the world better.  No market for that kinda thing.  Design a building that cleans itself, or a building that can turn into a tank and then you will make bank.

Apr 2, 13 5:29 pm  · 
wurdan freo

apparently the future is now.

3D Food Printer

May 22, 13 12:04 am  · 

You guys are like,... 20 years late.

May 22, 13 12:37 am  · 

Miles, your responses are on point. You cracked me up. I imagined you standing up in some biodome like virtual conference on technology and voicing your objections to such techno-talk. It's true, we all like to live and think about futures made easier, simpler, more functional and easier to access.

Like our predecessors, we often overlook the requirements and consequences of that series of proposals. We are paying the price now, for decades of past decisions. I cringe to imagine what someone else will say when they look back on NOW, sitting in their cubicle apartment. It takes stuff to make stuff and stuff costs money and raw materials.

Who finds the stuff and at what cost do consumers and the environment pay to deliver said stuff to intended markets.

May 22, 13 2:16 am  · 

The other day I walked into a grocery store and it dawned on me... there are now 8 check out lanes manned by one person.  There was still two other check out lanes open (one at the register hiding the tobacco products), but I realized that the last time I was in that particular store, they only had 4 self check out lanes.  Times are a changing... just Ron Burgundy had never heard that uttered before.

Even today, warehouses are experimenting with robotic aid.  We've seen where factory workers are being replaced by robots, like in the automotive world where a product line now features lines of robotic arms assembling parts, but now it's moving on to the point where a factory worker won't even be needed to push product around a warehouse... they'll let vehicles with crane-arms, tracks and no OSHA representation do that. 

At least it won't be something that happens over night.  Much like the check out counters and cashiers, it will start slowly and bridge over time.  The large corporations will be the ones to spend millions of dollars to try out this technology, but factory workers won't just shift around without pensions... those who are motivated will see the writing on the wall and hopefully jump on the band wagon that understands there will still be a need for Industrial Maintenance men.  Then of course the technology will trickle down to the smaller companies dreaming big and fearing workman's comp lawsuits.  I don't see this as a loss of jobs, yet an opportunity for those low income workers to spread their wings.  Most warehouses I've worked in have college students and emigrants who were doctors in their previous countries (very helpful to have when you slice your arm on a splintered pallet).

Same goes for 3D Printing.  With the internet, raising gas prices, solar technology... it's the best set up you can ask for to run a business at home.  If there was ever an excuse to learn or know how to create something 3d in the digital world, this is a prime prospect to grab all those recent architectural or graphic design grads out of the restaurants and retail jobs and bring them into a business world begging for their expertise.  Who knows, with all the copyright infringement... we might even have a job for all those law students who are still paying off their student debts waiting tables.

May 22, 13 9:52 am  · 

The total lack of understanding of basic materials science should be alarming coming from an architect...but unfortunately, it isn't.

May 22, 13 12:50 pm  · 
boy in a well

3d printing:

greatest modern American invention


greatest invention ever?

May 22, 13 5:40 pm  · 

automation in general is going to push the rich poor gap further than ever.  In the next 100 years the need for manual labor is going to be almost eradicated.  This imo is going to be the breaking point for the economy...Without "working class" work a huge segment of the population will be unable to buy goods...and ironically the robots will stop making stuff.  This seems like a sort of inevitable ending of this technological/robotics bubble. 

May 22, 13 7:10 pm  · 

I personally know about 5 individuals who are pulling in an easy 100K/year due to 3d printing technology which has allowed them to open up their own businesses

May 22, 13 8:17 pm  · 

Billionaires vs 40K a year Masters Degree backed Teachers is a pretty big gap as is... I don't think the gap widening really matters after that point...


Billion Dollar Sports owners vs Hundred Million Dollar overpaid athletes... and they still have money issues

May 23, 13 11:42 am  · 

Anyone hear about the fully functional liver that was 3d printed. 

May 23, 13 12:30 pm  · 
i r giv up

3d printing will make the world a better place letting anyone email jl-arch (or tammuz, or miles) a model of a handgun, so that they can print it out and shoot themselves in the face.

May 23, 13 1:40 pm  · 

Your mother a filthy cunt whore. 

May 23, 13 6:47 pm  · 

^ I think you're totally off base with the idea that 3D printers are going to change much of anything, at least in a good way. People are already printing out AR-15s.

As to your post above, it would have been more effective for you to reply with a useful application for this technology, such as  suggesting that i r giv up make a model of himself which he could then sexually abuse.

May 23, 13 7:13 pm  · 
boy in a well

finally this thread is getting good!

Whats up with the Friday tourettes you stinking ass faces?

May 24, 13 12:23 am  · 
boy in a well

jetlagged and stuck in a hotel



with a chin strap

May 24, 13 12:36 am  · 

Hell...weren't we all supposed to have jet packs by now?

May 30, 13 7:34 pm  · 

what is sure to happen is the exponential increase of knockoffs, copycats and fake goods coming out from asia.

May 30, 13 7:54 pm  · 

It's gotten so bad that the Chinese are knocking off the Chinese.

May 31, 13 9:02 am  · 
boy in a well

circle jerk?

May 31, 13 11:02 am  · 

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: