Monday, January 4, 2010

Thinking in 3D

I was hoping to see Avatar over the holiday break - I hear it is best to see in 3D. In the meantime, this got me thinking a little about the potential for 3d printing.

When I first heard mention of this technology, it sounded like a sci-fi dream: the ability to create physical objects on demand via printing. But it turns out it is not some far-off future state - 3d printing is used today in manufacturing, mainly for rapid prototyping. And it is started to spread elsewhere. Artists are using 3d printing to create sculpture. RepRap is an open source / open hardware project to create self-replicating machines (3d printers to create more 3d printers).

Current trends include escalating fuel costs and a substitution of the virtual world for physical objects. Could 3d printers be used to create a network of hyper-local micro factories that manufacture the few physical items we want? On demand creation right next door, rather than transporting boxes of things long distances?

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