|3D Printer future of manufacturing?
Whenever a new technology is created that has the potential to offer more opportunity and freedom to the average human being, we must listen to the “concerns” generated by major industry and governments. With the Internet, we hear the propaganda that what we know to be a level playing field of the free market of ideas is perceived by those in power as a “potential terrorist recruiting source.” In this way, there is a full spectrum of excuses that can be employed for overt suppression, or de facto suppression through regulation, which inevitably results in the hoarding of technology by corporations and governments.
The latest technology that is increasing its footprint exponentially (with a subsequent exponential reduction in cost) is 3D printing. And, true to form, the establishment has focused on the nearly free weaponry that could be — and, in fact, has been — created, from drones to guns. Here is the central concern stated by The Lowy Institute’s Australian propaganda outlet:
Effectively, this means that an individual or group has the ability – with minimal investment – to avoid the cumbersome task of purchasing expensive overseas technology and instead print their weapon. (Source)
However, beyond this obvious smokescreen lies a technology that could easily revolutionize every facet of our lives, exactly as Internet communication has. Let us look at the top 5 ways that 3D printers will change the world for the good if we can resist government and big industry intrusion and insist on the day when there is a 3D printer in every home.
Homemade weapons: What the establishment sees as the greatest threat could be one of the single greatest uses for 3D printing to bring freedom on the widest scale — the ability for anyone to print a weapon. Every tyrannical regime throughout history has disarmed the public prior to becoming a truly out-of-control killing machine. With the ability for anyone, anywhere to be able to defend oneself and mobilize quickly against a growing threat, governments would have to think twice before heading down the road to tyranny. The fact is that human nature has now been scientifically proven to be inherently non-violent; it is only a relative handful of psychopaths that exist — and they tend to seek positions of power or congregate in street gangs. Good people, vastly outnumbering them, must have the equipment to defend themselves while keeping the truly dangerous people (and governments) in check … or preferably have them disarmed.
Increased Health Benefits: Low-cost lab equipment means a lowered outlay for research. We often hear a familiar refrain from Big Pharma that the reason why medication costs are so high is because of the cost of research. And the cost of hospital visits is so high supposedly because of the cost of equipment. This current paradigm opens up the door for necessary funding from large corporate interests who have only their shareholders’ financial benefit in mind, rather than the patients’ health. With more independent funding, research speed will increase, and a true free market in healthcare can be established free of control by only the wealthy. So far, this technology has been used to replace bones and body parts in people, creating exoskeletons for children with congenital illnesses in order to help them walk, and it is even posited that someday people could print working human organs through cheap home devices.
Inexpensive Architecture and Artistic Design: The cost of 3D printing has theoretically gone to zero. Singularity Hub ran a recent article covering a new 3D printing app for the iPhone which opens up an array of possibilities for the average user. While still limited compared to more expensive printers, one can easily see the technology rapidly offering new means of creative expression.
In three years 3D scanners have gone from $30,000 to $3,000 to—$0.00?! AutoDesk’s free 123D Catch app is now available for the iPhone and iPad. Users can take up to 40 pictures, upload them to the cloud, and receive a digital 3D model. Simply, 123D Catch is a free handheld 3D scanner as mobile as you are. Coupled with 3D modeling software and 3D printing services, Autodesk aims to bring 3D fabrication to the masses.
If you’re an architect or manufacturer or computer animator, chances are you already know Autodesk. Their 3D modeling software AutoCad—first released way back in 1982—is near ubiquitous in the professional world. But not so much at home.
Autodesk hopes to change all that with its user-friendly, free suite of 3D modeling software.
Truly amazing is the ability to print entire buildings! Naturally this is an area being invested in by the U.S. Department of Defense to the tune of $30 million, but according to Think Defence, a British site:
The terminology often used is ‘contour crafting’ and this describes a system to treat buildings the same as manufactured parts today. That is, integrated design and production using computers and machines rather than design and artisan craftsman.
It is not completely ‘printed’ but uses 3D printing for some aspects of the build.
The video below is a TED Talk from Behrokh Khoshnevis, from the Center for Rapid Automated Fabrication Technologies at the University of Southern California, supported by Caterpillar Inc.
Infrastructure Creation and Efficiency: The basic technlogy offered by the personal app for home devices is being employed in full-scale infrasctructure products such as cables and pipes, and is already beginning to offer some tantalizing benefits. Civil engineers are using a combination of sophisticated 3D laser scanning to model environments for functions such as bridge infrastructure inventories, bridge height clearance measurements, street intersection surveys, and inventories of railway crossings, just to name a few. (Source) Once the full power of 3D printing is unleashed, we very well could see the bridges, trains, rails and surfaces themselves be created for a fraction of current costs, offering a quick way to repair decaying public infrastructure even as community budgets struggle during difficult economic times.
Less Manufacturing Pollution: Another interesting application for 3D printing aims to replace a portion of the massive amount of cement binder used in infrastructure projects with something called Stone Spray. With this application, according to Stone Spray creators, architecture can be created from soil. Utilizing a layered 3D printing technique, the core of a structure can be created with a greatly reduced amount of cement, thus cutting the need for one of the most polluting substances currently used in construction (concrete). From the concrete batch plants to urban runoff causing soil erosion, water pollution, to the inherently costly equipment used to contain and recycle concrete, and heavy metal emissions, current infrastructure creation pollutes every step of the way. (Source) This new technology offers benefits in the areas of true environmental concerns. Energy consumption is also greatly reduced, and can even be operated exclusively via solar energy, which in turn lowers overall construction project costs, both public and private. Load bearing ability is currently sufficient to produce walls, and it is expected that research projects similar to Stone Spray will increase on a much wider scale in the not-too-distant future.
Beyond the larger applications, imagine a 3D printer in every home within a few years offering easily downloadable specifications for nearly all basic objects. One could print a bowl, cup, plate, spoon or Tupperware anytime they needed a new kitchen utensils. Tools like wrenches or screwdrivers could be produced in minutes along with the screws, nuts, and bolts needed for the task. Even parts for medical equipment, power production, transportation, laboratory equipment, etc. would be one click away. There are almost too many possibilities to consider. However, with the many potential benefits of this technology, we would be remiss not to consider some of the negatives. With the current military-industrial system in place across much of the planet, this technology is already in the wrong hands and must be maintained as open source if we are to utilize this for the betterment of humanity. We will examine in an upcoming article some of these negatives to be on the alert for.
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