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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Geeking Science: 3D Printer Tech

Artificial bone made using a 3D printer

New type of blog entry. Don't know how often I will write a "Geeking Science" blog, but I hope you enjoy them.

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So, you may ask, what is Source-Replicator technology and why do I think it is a “near future” science fiction.

3D printing technology will be the next major game changer. Just like wireless communication has affected nearly everything we do – TV remotes, cell phones, computer wi-fi, the wireless keyboard and mouse, eBooks, pre-pay toll booths, RFID inventory, GPS car directions – once printing technology matures the applications will be countless. And it is very nearly mature.

Experiments and actual use of the technology is happening in the automotive, dental, medical, fashion, food, and many other industries. Open source 3D printing is available for several items.

Where most manufacturing is about removing stuff you don’t need – trimming wood or metal down until you have the object’s shape, 3D printing is about additive manufacturing. You only use the materials you need to make the item.

In automotive, computer modeling has replaced many of the physical modules they used to build. They still need to make a few modules, usually sculptures, to do real world tests. Now a flick of the button releases the prototype, saving weeks in the development cycle.

What makes this a game changer is ANYTHING which can be crafted can be “printed”. Pizza for Mars (http://www.fastcoexist.com/1682194/why-nasa-just-spent-125000-to-fund-a-3-d-pizza-printer-prototype) in development.  Need to replace compressed spinal bones (a common back aliment), already done in Japan with printed bone transplants (http://www.3ders.org/articles/20130813-japanese-patients-successfully-received-3d-printed-bone-transplants.html). Well bone is easy, but how about more complicated items forever on the transplant wait list? How about a working liver? A “printed” one has been successfully placed into a mouse (http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-07/how-3-d-printing-body-parts-will-revolutionize-medicine). Oh, and rejection? The base is from the patient’s own cells. Bioprinting skin grafts for burn victims, new heart valves to replaced damaged ones, even replacement ears – all happening RIGHT NOW!

That printer for skin grafts – they are making it portable. As in, be able to take into the field for disasters and third world hospitals.

Imagine wearing clothes made for you. Not just off the shelf, but going into a store, getting laser measured and a pair of jeans comes out ten minutes later fitted for your bootie. No more compromising a dress either too tight on top or too loose on bottom.  The next generation will look back and laugh, going – didn’t they know how to wear clothes? Like the present generation, when we talk about a car stalling out and walking to the nearest gas station – why didn’t you just call on your cell mom?

How about getting a car repaired? Have to wait until the mechanic order parts? No more. The wait is maybe 30 minutes if the material needed for the part isn’t too specialized like a platinum plug.

This is very real, and very now. In the 80’s we laughed at the large cell phones, even as we saw their potential. We did not realize all the things that would change with the wireless technology.

I don’t know what all will change with the 3D printing technology, but the writing on the wall has started. Industries will vanish, while new ones form. Medical will continue to evolve, making us healthier, longer – and for less expense – and all the implications of long-life impacting social security, job opportunities, and  recreational freedom.

I labeled flashes of "Pickup" and "Keep Trucking" as science fiction. They were actually intellectual exercises figuring out how our lives may change in the near future.

We live in amazing times.

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