From prosthetic limbs to food, everything is printable/possible
The technologies behind the world of 3d printing made huge steps forwards from their first use in the ‘80s by Chuck Hull.
Recently there has been a considerable increase of the possible application for such technology, and the results are quite astonishing.
3d printers are used in medical research to create prosthetic limbs less “invasive” and “shocking” for the patient, since they can easily recreate the silhouette of the missing limb by scanning the remaining one, and to create also bracers and hearing devices. Recently this technology has been used also to create prototypes of working human organs such as livers or kidneys.
Others uses might be found in the spaceship program to create probes and in industrial environments as well as domestic one.
An element that surely aided the expansion of 3d printers was the one of the “user-friendly process”; in order to start a printing process, a person needs only to learn how to use a simple computer program. If it results to be too difficult, a person can use a tool that allows the conversion of a picture of the object you want to duplicate in string of data and then let the printer do the rest.
The latest “taboo” destroyed by this technology was the food market, since recently some new food companies, like “Foodini”, started to print, as they claim: “real food, 3d printed, made with fresh ingredients”. This groundbreaking effort might give birth to a complete new idea of “nutrition habits”, shaped on the request and the needs of an individual, and can create a big amount of job opportunities for youngster who try to find their way in the world.
As the modern flourishing of new 3d printing startups made clear, this technology is not anymore a thing for big elites companies, but something affordable to almost everyone. An example is the little space company “Planetary Resources” that made a complete functional probe that will soon be send to space and it is big just a fraction of the one of NASA and that cost only a fraction.
Many people think that 3D printing will be the end of manufacturing as we know it because, along with all of the unimagined, we will also have the unintended, like democratized counterfeiting and ubiquitous illegal possession.
But we should think about the role of 3d fabrication, from being a phenomenon of niche to an essential passage for enabling a novel development of the urban texture: the accessibility of the medium to the community and its incredible flexibility fits perfectly with the new trend of FabLabs. In this context, 3D printing should also be considered as a great instruments for empowering the culture of the Commons.
Nevertheless, it is very important to consider such steps forwards in the technological progress just how they are, a possibility to improve our lives and our future.