Sunday, June 10, 2007

Too cool technology

3-D printers may be a far cry from the transporters and the things that made food from raw particles in Star Trek, but it's a first step. William Gibson and others since then (like David Marusek) have included the idea in their writings that people in the future will just use such devices to create, "print" or somehow fabricate everyday objects as needed instead of having stores where all these objects are kept on shelves. Now I've heard of 3-D modelers before, and also 3-D laser cutters that will trim a block of steel down to a desired shape, but I never knew that this was coming around the bend until now:

PASADENA, Calif. — Sometimes a particular piece of plastic is just what you need. You have lost the battery cover to your cellphone, perhaps. Or your daughter needs to have the golden princess doll she saw on television. Now.

In a few years, it will be possible to make these items yourself. You will be able to download three-dimensional plans online, then push Print. Hours later, a solid object will be ready to remove from your printer.

It’s not quite the transporter of “Star Trek,” but it is a step closer.

Three-dimensional printers have been seen in industrial design shops for about a decade. They are used to test part designs for cars, airplanes and other products before they are sent to manufacturing. Once well over $100,000 each, such machines can now be had for $15,000. In the next two years, prices are expected to fall further, putting the printers in reach of small offices and even corner copy stores.
All I can say is, I'm absolutely blown away. Read the article in full and you will be too.

1 comment:

Xanthippas said...

I'm sure some people could look at this and say "So what? It pumps out plastic parts?" But it's really the amazing potential for a machine such as this that's truly captivating. That and the metaphysical notion of turning electrons in wires or cable into solid objects.