Soon, anyone with access to a 3D printer, which melts plastic polymer into different shapes in order to “print” 3-dimensional objects, will be able to download and print their very own personal firearm, because evidently just picking one up at Wal-Mart was too much of a hassle.
While this particular application of 3D printing has skeptics worried about violent results, the technology itself actually has a lot of useful applications that may not doom us all.
MakerBot Industries, a startup that develops software and 3D printers, elected to use their technology to just have a little fun. After all, why work on life-improving 3D printing applications when you can build a scale model replica of Stephen Colbert’s head and launch it into space on a weather balloon?
Remember in the Jetsons how their meals were basically materialized from nothing in a little machine? That might not be such a ridiculous proposition. Advances in 3D printing technology are happening at such a rate that they actually point to a future in which you may actually be able to print your own food. 3D printers are already being used to customize food by manipulating shapes and sizes, but if the technology reaches the point where atoms and molecules can be manipulated, food that is actually built by a printer could be a feasible result.
The world’s first printed car was made back in 2011, and boy was it ugly. But hey, it came out of a 3D printer and is built to last 30 years, so it’s pretty damn impressive anyway. The “Urbee” was made using a special printer that built it layer by layer, with the end result being a three-wheeled, super-green car that runs on a gas and electric hybrid engine. The highly efficient vehicle is also said to get up to 200 miles per gallon on the highway, so it could be shaped like a giant middle finger and most people would still likely be more than happy to drive it.
2 Prosthetics and Regeneration
Lose a limb? Shatter a bone? Organs failing? Don’t sweat it; just print up some new ones and you’ll be right as rain. 3D printing technology is already being used to revolutionize the manufacturing of personal prosthetics and regeneration, in cases which include a man having 75% of his skull replaced with a printed plastic one, the creation of a bionic ear with super-human hearing, and the use of living cells to print transplantable organs like artificial kidneys and bladders.
Lee Cronin, a professor of chemistry, nanoscience and chemical complexity, has been working with a research group to create a 3D printer that can actually print molecules. This printer would use a universal set of chemical inks, which would work in combination with downloadable software that instructs the printer on how to build the molecules necessary to synthesize a given medicine within the device. Essentially, we could soon have the technology to make medicine in our own homes, as we need it. Surely the big pharmaceutical companies won’t mind.