"3D printing" sounds like something that'll remain on the pages of science fiction — really, look no further than Star Trek's replicators — yet it's very real, and it already works on a small scale. The large scale? It could be right around the corner.
The New York Times has a pretty thorough write-up of the direction 3D printing is going. I mean, just think of it: instead of needing a skilled crew, you just need a detailed blueprint and a machine large or complex enough. We're a long way off from, say, constructing a skyscraper with a touch of a button, but we're we at now small business can manufacture high-quality artificial limbs, models of buildings for architects and even machinery components.
From the New York Times:
These days it is giving rise to a string of never-before-possible businesses that are selling iPhone cases, lamps, doorknobs, jewelry, handbags, perfume bottles, clothing and architectural models. And while some wonder how successfully the technology will make the transition from manufacturing applications to producing consumer goods, its use is exploding.
A California start-up is even working on building houses. Its printer, which would fit on a tractor-trailer, would use patterns delivered by computer, squirt out layers of special concrete and build entire walls that could be connected to form the basis of a house.
A whole house? Of course, there's a downside to it: 3D printers seem like they'd destroy a lot of jobs, or at least create a lot of different jobs. Another interesting point is that it could lessen America's dependence on outsourcing, according to Scott Summit (pictured above): "There is nothing to be gained by going overseas except for higher shipping charges."
Via NY Times