Jason Bayless is a life-long activist and is currently working at The Pachamama Alliance. When he is not working he spends, working with Center for Farmworker Families and spending his time recording shows, writing blogs, collecting 3D movies, and playing VR games.
[tab title="The 3D Effect"]
Additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3D printing, is changing many aspects of our lives, and it is quickly becoming an essential part of many divergent industries. 3D printers are even reaching consumers in record numbers – RepRage estimates that by 2012 somewhere between 32,000 and 70,000 consumer 3D printers had been sold. While the much-predicted third industrial revolution might be a few years away still, 3D printing is poised to radically change many industries in a way that seems like something out of science fiction. Here’s a look at the coming changes 3D printing will bring in the future:
The advancement of 3D printing puts us all one step closer to space travel in several ways. The prohibitive cost of sending manufactured goods to a space station or vessel can be circumvented by installing 3D printers onboard spacecraft. As long as 3D printing continues to work in zero gravity it will be substantially cheaper to manufacture parts on the International Space Station than to ship them into space. As 3D printers advance in precision and accuracy, a future where everything we need to build a space station can be printed in the depths of space may very well become a reality. In fact, as robots advance we may see the ability to send automated vessels into deep space to construct settlements long before humans arrive.
Furthermore, the science fiction trope of replicating food on demand is actually a possibility with 3D printing. NASA has contracted a company to design and manufacture a 3D printer that can print food for astronauts on long missions. The initial prototype can actually print a pizza and even cook the dough as it prints, which is a step closer to a replicator in the crew quarters dishing out hot Earl Grey tea on demand.
It isn’t just outside the atmosphere that 3D printing stands to change the aerospace industry. 3D printing allows engineers and developers in the field of aerospace to create prototypes much faster than traditional methods. This allows designers to quickly test and prototype multiple concepts to determine which is the most efficient and best suited for the task they are designed for, which means that aerospace engineers can take greater design chances and risks without being as prohibited by cost. What this means in the long run is that we could see a future where anyone can print their own aeronautic vehicles or drones at home.
Manufacturing also stands to be deeply changed because 3D printing is lowering the entrance costs for many new businesses. A good designer with a 3D printer can create a toy or household item in just a few hours time. Eliminating the tremendous expense associated with becoming a manufacturer democratizes the entire industry, and with that democratization comes innovation in every industry, which means that anyone with a prototype design for a robot or other groundbreaking technology can simply print the parts on demand and possibly change the course of the future.
Since replacement parts for products can be printed on a 3D printer, the need for entire manufacturing lines dedicated to creating a single widget will become a thing of the past. Furthermore, transportation costs and environmental impact is greatly reduced when smaller parts can be manufactured anywhere in the world. However, 3D printing isn’t quite ready to replace mainstream manufacturing. The average inkjet 3D printer wastes about 40 to 45 percent of its ink, according to GreenBiz. Despite that, the future of 3D printing’s role in manufacturing looks bright as long as the ecological impact and waste of the technology can be reduced.