The ability to download physical objects in the form of a 3d file and print it out in a 3d printer will change how we perceive material possessions in the future. The shops will work very differently when in many cases it’s easier, cheaper and quicker to print something at home than finding it in a shop or ordering it online. Today 3d printers are becoming affordable for most people but they are still too technically advanced to use for the average person. With the ability to print physical objects it will put further strain on the current way that copyright and patents work. Copyright was invented during a time when digital copies didn’t exist and the flow of ideas and objects went slow. Today when a 3d file of an object can be downloaded or a music file transferred almost instantly and at no cost we see that copyright is broken. When it was created copyright was there to act as an incentive for creation, today it’s often blocking the ability to create.
The above TED video gives a quick introduction to some of the possibilities of 3d printing. The 3d printing possibility is becoming a reality for average persons soon and will be a great shift in the way we live when you can print almost anything. This includes structures that were “impossible” to make with normal manufacturing techniques due to the cost and detail of some creations. The ability to print only a few objects based on an idea, instead of having to order a bulk of objects to get cost reasonable with traditional manufacturing, the 3d print will change the industry. When instead of having to go between shops looking for something that you like you can make or modify a 3d sketch and have it printed on demand. Want a light in the shape of a ball with two feet and one hand? No problem with the ability to customize products. In the earlier stages some companies will allow you to modify the product through a simple 3d interface before ordering and buying it from them.
With the help of a scanner one can recreate and modify a lot of products. Being able to scan your body and order clothes afterwards will make a future with perfectly fitting clothes. Another area that will benefit greatly from 3d printers is the medical sector. Being able to layer cells in a printer and create body parts will end the problem with not having enough donors.
Building houses can be done with the help of giant 3d printers in the future. The research into Contour Crafting will make housebuilding much quicker and cheaper in the future. A documentary about The Man Who Prints Houses will be done in April and should make for an interesting watch.
Being able to transfer data in the form of a 3d design instead of sending the finished product will be a big win for the environment and the time wasted looking for the right shop. Also smaller everyday uses like downloading a 3d print for a spare part of a discontinued product (e.g. an old vacuum cleaner) will stop some of the capitalistic “use and throw” that exists today. Culture and other material information will be more accessible (maybe print a Smithsonian statue to put in the garden?).
With the accessibility of printing objects piracy will become a problem for some creators. The Pirate Bay already has a section for 3d designs and alternatives like Thingiverse will allow creators to be inspired by others and create their own objects instead of going to the shop. What creative use of a 3d printer can you think of?
[pic: CC-BY-NC-SA, Euphy]