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3D printing is currently used for a variety of sectors in order to produce items with greater precision, automation and speed. Here I have compiled a list of some of the most interesting items which are already possible to 3D print and which can have important implications for our future.
One of the areas in which 3D printing has become more relevant is architecture. For many, it seems a dream come true that architects can digitally design something that can become a physical reality just by pressing a button. 3D printing of architectural models is mostly the limit in this industry so far. However, the Chinese have already gone forward and printed of houses for a cost of US$5,000 each.
This is for many sci-fi lovers one of the ultimate 3D printouts that we have been looking forward to for many decades after seeing similar concepts on sci-fi astronaut and futuristic stories, films, TV series and cartoons. Nowadays, it is possible to have fun printing chocolates and sweets in any shape such as stars, snow cones, little houses or faces. 3D printing of food is still far from a reality as a solution for hunger or as food for astronauts. The cost is very high and the technology is still in development.
However, this could have strong implications for our everyday lives in the future since it implies that any source of nutrients that can be liquidised or powdered could be used for mimicking food as we know it. Fancy a steak with a jelly texture made of insects? It is already possible to print mashed food visually resembling the real thing in its original shape, designed for people who have trouble swallowing solids.
One of the most controversial areas of 3D printing is the printing of guns. Although the cost is very expensive in comparison to the purchase of the real things and the first prototypes are guns’ parts being developed in plastic, this could create readier and unregulated access to guns once the technology becomes mainstream and costs go down.
3D printing is a very relevant technology in the field of medicine. This technology is already being used to make printouts of tissues with biodegradable gel and human cells in order to create skin, ears, noses and fingers for experimental transplants in order to avoid rejection from the body. It is also possible to make printouts of metal body parts to create prosthetics.
Although this implies a huge step for science it also brings with it philosophical implications related to the nature of man and machine. With technologically improved body parts we may become cyborgs before we know it.
5. 3D Printers
And to answer a classic question regarding 3D printing: Yes, it is possible for a 3D printer to print an iteration of itself. Who knows what the future may hold if we finally reach true AI and sentient machines can reproduce themselves at will.
Haraway, Donna J. A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century. Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York; Routledge, 1991. p.149-181.
Mironov, Vladimir et al. (2003). Organ printing: computer-aided jet-based 3D tissue engineering, Trends in Biotechnology , Volume 21, Issue 4 , 157 – 161.
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