While still some time away 3D printing is going to significantly change the world for the better, as the technology continues to advance with greater precision, diversity of materials and multi material printers there is almost an inevitability to the radical impact it will have.
We already have some amazing things happening with 3D printing - homes, food, 3D Printers (they can print themselves) and even prosthetics to mention a few. It really is not a question of how it will benefit us as we are already reaping the rewards, the more pertinent thought is just how boundless the future for this technology is to reshape the entire planet.
While currently it is largely for decorative and decadent results we are seeing the potential for this to blossom in to a truly remarkable technology. By taking the concepts of 3D printing we are starting to see the creation of nutritionally balanced foods...while still dependent on natural ingredients the total control could go a long way to controlling food waste and reducing world hunger. As the science progresses we could see a remarkable change to commercial farming and alternative sources of meat replacing our dependency on the farming of animals. 3D printing would bring about substantial improvements to our health and environment.
Manufacturing is certainly seeing significant improvements through 3D printing allowing for far cheaper methods of research and conceptual design. The additive nature of 3d printing significantly reduces waste material, the greater precision allows for lighter, stronger products while lowering manufacturing costs. The result is a reduction on the environmental impact and lowering the costs to the consumer.
Certainly, to a limited extent we are seeing clothes entering the 3D printing world, most often its basic things such as shoes, jewellery and vanity items...with the fashion world producing the truly ridiculous of course. The main limitation is material suitability and competing with a very well-developed weaving/sewing industry. In the future with the development of suitable materials/fabrics 3D printing will establish itself as the standard for clothing, offering stronger, longer lasting clothes which will also reduce our needs for detergents by having self-cleaning properties.
3D printing has already established itself as the primary solution for prosthetics, providing highly precise limbs specifically designed for the person while also improving flexibility and functionality. We are seeing developments for medicine, blood vessels and skin, science is investigating the potential of 3D printing organs, recently we saw the development of 3D printable muscles and using stem cells with 3d printing to create a replacement ear. With 3D printing in the medical world coupled with organic materials we could see us live far healthier longer lives, human “plus” the next evolution of man…the potential could be profound.
Home 3d Printing
For the moment 3D printing at home is more likely to be found in the den of the hobbyist, but we are starting to see it appear in the family home. There are huge communities for home 3D printing which offer access to a staggering array of print files, once downloaded they can be printed on your 3D printer, the sheer variety of items is staggering with it ranging from art to fashion, tools to toys, household items, replacement parts and even redesigned components.
The further these 3D printing technologies advance the sheer potential improvement to our quality of life is exceptional. We could see the day where everything we need can be printed from home, it could be the technology that see’s us lose our dependency on fossil fuels, bring stability to a world fighting over resources, bring a more balanced quality of life for all and eradicate the purpose of using money…truly set humanity free from the hideous world of corporate profiteering and financial slavery.
There would certainly be some significant challenges to overcome before such a future could be realised, the material costs would likely be significantly detrimental with an exponential growth in demand. However, if we can develop the recycling technology to recover the raw materials from the old to then use for the creation of its replacement there would be balance. What may be our biggest threat to attaining such a future would be the continuation of a class-based society, the harms of which can already be demonstrably witnessed today through those who have vs those who have not.
On a final note....one for the scientists please remeber the following is not the desired outcome for 3D printing.