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A TRIP TO ‘TOMORROWLAND’
tajamul hussain | 31 Dec 2013

The idea of 4Dprinting, in the making-- a new technology in which 3Dprinters can essentially construct themselves -- and even 5Dprinting, or voxel manufacturing, in which elements of production can be added, arranged, rearranged, and even deconstructed by a machine, Modern Meadow like startups, work on 3Dprinted meat and leather, raise the potential for a future without as much need for giant cattle ranches and the resources that are required to run them. Scientists hope to be able to print human tissue and organs as well as bones, but admit that day is some way off. Bioprinting is set onto create replacement organs for the human body. 3Dprinters quite literally already print you new teeth and even a jaw.

Imagine a future in which a device connected to a computer can print a solid object. A future in which we can have tangible goods as well as intangible services delivered to our desktops or high street shops over the Internet. And a future in which the everyday "atomization" of virtual objects into hard reality has turned the mass pre-production and stock-holding of a wide range of goods and spare parts into kind of historical have-been. Such a future may sound like it is being plucked from the worlds of ‘Star trek’. However, while transporter devices that can instantaneously deliver us to remote locations may remain a fantasy, 3Dprinters, outputting physical objects, have been there for some time and are starting to present a whole host of new digital manufacturing capabilities. 3Dprinting is onto do for manufacturing what computers and the Internet have already done for the creation, processing and storage of information. As an important manifestation of the Second Digital Revolution -- 3Dprinting is gonnebe the in-thing of our future. 3Dprinting involves a ‘print head’ that works with any material, extruded through a nozzle. Or else a laser beam (or glue) to selectively fuse powdered plastic, metal or ceramic in layers. A user selects an electronic design blueprint and loads the raw materials into the 3Dprinter. The machine does the rest. People with no special training can rip, mix and burn physical objects like custom machine parts, household goods, jewellery, and maybe someday, electronic devices. The range of products 3Dprinted includes automobiles, jewellery, plastic toys, coffee-makers, and all sorts of plastic bottles, packaging and containers and of course, Rolls Royce’s project, Merlin, to 3Dprint civil aircraft engines. Printers are there to 3DPrint future buildings and large building components on-site to any design. 3D Systems machines already work with 100 different materials, and enable everything from wax for jewelry to rubberlike materials to composites that can be used under the hood in automobiles to various metals and alloys. The idea of 4Dprinting, in the making-- a new technology in which 3Dprinters can essentially construct themselves -- and even 5Dprinting, or voxel manufacturing, in which elements of production can be added, arranged, rearranged, and even deconstructed by a machine, Modern Meadow like startups, work on 3Dprinted meat and leather, raise the potential for a future without as much need for giant cattle ranches and the resources that are required to run them. Scientists hope to be able to print human tissue and organs as well as bones, but admit that day is some way off. Bioprinting is set onto create replacement organs for the human body. 3Dprinters quite literally already print you new teeth and even a jaw. A fascinating range of amazing and unusual printers-- concrete printers, glass printers, bio-printers, and printers that print on toast--- already available, for home enthusiasts and lone inventors, a growing range of personal 3Dprinting initiatives, kits and printers is also now available. The idea of a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) manufacturer really coming to the forefront, Desktop 3Dprinting manufacturing technology done at home, office, a hospital or a school, bringing manufacturing to non-manufacturers the way PCs brought computing to non-traditional environments. Going forward, lack of human imagination (our linear brain’s inability to comprehend our current rate of exponential progress) appears to be the only limitation for 3Dprinters. Lipson tickles one’s imagination with his vision of an “...assembly line of computer-guided, 3Dprinters giving ‘birth’ to baby robots that crawl out of the printer and wander off to a nearby nursery where they learn to use their arms and legs according to instructions already hard-wired into their electronic circuitry.” With blueprints for various objects already being made freely available, the entire intellectual property rights system however could be gutted as the technology evolves for home use, putting millions of people out of work. As far as printing dangerous objects goes, making it illegal to download the blueprints of certain destructive objects isn't going to help. We all know how easily illegal data files get around. It’s indeed scary that the group's blueprint is on the web and anyone with enough money to lease a 3Dprinter can now print a gun. And it’d be sheer folly to assume that 3Dprinting will remain at the same level — particularly when experts all agree that the technology has evolved at an exponential rate over the past few years. What will we see next? Bombs, IEDs and missiles printed out at a moment's notice by any individual who wants to create mayhem? The now innocuous printing press, churned up social ferment when it was unleashed in 1450, by setting the mass production of books to spread across a world that had hitherto reserved literacy for its elite. Instead of playing video games throughout their childhood, kids can be working on creative projects and be well on their way to being rocket scientists without even realizing that they're learning. 3Dprinting goes hand in hand with computational power in the cloud, artificial intelligence, robotics, ubiquitous inexpensive and highly accurate sensors, and the ability to digitize almost anything. For people wanting to start companies without needing to invest a lot of money, you’ll be making materials within materials and embedding and weaving multiple materials into complex patterns….printing hard and soft materials in patterns that create bizarre and new structural behaviors. Just a few years later, it’s gonnebe a very different story. Tech visionary, Ray Kurzweil, predicts that 3Dprinters will eventually be able to self-replicate by printing the parts to build other 3Dprinters. 3Dprinters will ever become as ubiquitous as other household essentials, it’ll... but what they’ll be used for is still . 30 years ago people asked why they’d need a desktop computer in their homes. Home 3Dprinters may remain the preserve of a tiny minority of "passionate makers" for a while to come. The most exciting development will be when infinite computing is coupled with 3Dprinting, the revolutionary combination, thoroughly democratizing design and manufacturing. Suddenly an invention developed in China can be perfected in India, then printed and utilized in Brazil on the same day—giving the developing world a poverty fighting mechanism unlike anything yet seen.