Thursday, 23 December 2010INDEX

3d printers

Either I am getting old or things are getting very weird. The concept of 3d printers (as covered by BBC World Service's Digital Planet recently) is like science fiction or an April Fool's Day joke.

A 3d printer is like the Star Trek transporter except it doesn't actually take a thing from anywhere: It creates an object from a reasonably small number of basic ingredients. It works by building up layers until eventually it creates an entire object. So come up with a design and you can send it half way round the world to be output as a physical object!

And this is not just for small things. According to Digital Planet it is possible to output a house using this system.

The Fordist production line concept has long been threatened by robotic machinery capable of producing one off objects with more or less equal efficiency to the production line process. This means there are no economies of scale (at least in production) and threatens the whole concept of large scale industry.

3d printers, if they exist now or ever will exist, are yet another way of making distance (or proximity) irrelevant. Consequently expect city house prices to slump as people realise they don't need to live in giant urban landscapes.

According to Digital Planet, the wackiest idea is a self replicating machine. You design one and then give it to someone with the instruction that they must produce one copy and give it to someone else instructing them to do exactly the same thing. Pretty soon everyone in the world has a 3d printer.
Thursday, 23 December 2010INDEX