Dr Karl talks about the history of it, where we're at now and possibilities for the future.
The future section was my favourite part:
Dr Karl Kruszelnicki wrote:
THE FUTURE OF 3D PRINTING
The potential is enormous.
You could print off a metal gear to replace the broken one in your car’s gearbox, or some of that extra-special lubricant for your bike chain. In a sudden killer-flu epidemic, you could print off enough antiviral drugs for your whole family. You could use one 3D Printer to make another identical 3D Printer, and so on, and so on (and so on).
In artificial hip joints, there is a metal ball-and-socket. The inner part of the socket has to be really hard and impervious, so that it doesn’t wear. But the outer part, the section that binds to the bone, has to be porous, so that the bone will infiltrate and bind to it. The previous method was to make the socket from two different types of metal and then bond them together. However, with 3D Printing, you can make the socket from one piece of metal, just changing the porosity and density of the metal where it sits close to the bone.
Suppose we can have different materials in a single part. You could incorporate tracks that carry electricity or light, and even lots of sensors.
There will be social changes. At the moment, in the field of manufacturing, the countries that have the advantage are those with low costs and low wages. So manufacturing capacity may well shift around the world; although it’s much too early to make specific predictions, we know that Manufacturing Capability will shift, but not to where, nor in what quantities. Another claim is that there will be no need for factories when any town, village or even house can have its own 3D Printer. However, if you want to make hundreds of pencils each minute, there are advantages in using a big factory with assembly lines.
There will be legal changes. If a manufactured item can be totally described and specified with a digital file, then that digital file can be copied. Once it escapes from the original manufacturer, how will they get their royalty or cut?
We could send these machines to an asteroid, and they could use the raw materials of the asteroid to build a home for us for when we eventually move into space.
Maybe the 3D Printer will be as significant as the printing press in 1450, the steam engine in 1750 or the transistor in 1950.
I might be wrong, but I think it will be a Game Changer.
All of that sounds fantastic, the fact that the possibilities are nearly endless is amazing - and I hadn't even thought of the social implications with the changes it could make to the slave wage assembly line countries.