3D Printing Coming of Age, Bringing Benefits and Problems

We have talked a bit here about robotics lately and I’m also interested in what is happening in with what I consider a parallel technology: 3D Printing. For some reason I have been hearing the subject coming up more and more in the news lately — even in the political arena.

In his recent State of the Union address, in pushing for more manufacturing in the USA, Barack Obama touted the potential of the technology when he said:

“Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns . . . I ask this Congress to help create a network of fifteen of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is Made in America.”

As noted when we discussed robotics, 3D printing can certainly revolutionize manufacturing, but it has a similar potential as robotics to do so without an increase in manufacturing jobs (something not noted by Mr. Obama). Al Gore is another (ex) politician talking about 3D printing as a revolutionary technology which brings with perils as well as opportunities.

3D printing was recently featured in a news segment on NPR which focused on the intellectual property issues surrounding the technology where copyright is turning out to be a major issue to deal with. For example, if you make a CAD file of a Star Wars action figure and print it out, you are technically in violation of copyright (, and are potentially open to being sued by the copyright holder.

A real-world example of this was mentioned in an article about copyright and 3D printing on ReadWrite.com:

“Last week, HBO sent a cease-and-desist letter to Fernando Sosa asking him to stop selling a 3D printed iPhone dock he modeled after the Iron Throne chair from the popular HBO TV series Game of Thrones. Even though Sosa designed the dock himself in Autodesk Maya, HBO owns the rights to the show, its characters, and apparently the inanimate objects that appear onscreen.”

We’re still dealing with copyright issues in the digital domain and the 3D printing world brings a whole new dimension of problems to handle. Another extended article that I think is well worth reading on this topic is “The next Napster? Copyright questions as 3D printing comes of age” by Peter Hanna on Ars Technica.

Finally, here’s an interesting little video featuring the “poor man’s” 3D printer: The 3Doodler.

So why bring up 3D Printing on a blog that deals with cold fusion? In my mind it’s one of those technologies that along with new and superior ways to produce energy could help to transform the world we live in and affect our quality of life in significant ways. The disruption that the combination these (and other) technologies may bring could be great, but they have the potential to bring tremendous benefits as well.

A world without the need backbreaking manual labor and grinding poverty is something that most people would welcome, and it may be that these technologies could eventually put such a dream within our grasp. Much wisdom and creativity will be needed to handle these so that the advantages will outweigh the drawbacks, allowing all to share in the benefits of such rapid technological advances.

  • Ascension

    What if the powers that be were not there to impede but just to make sure we get there in a safe manner? Seriously now, would they too not want to go and explore out there? Maybe they are just waiting for us to be able to handle the blueprints.

  • cx

    small piece on cold fusion here http://gizmodo.com/5985864/5-amazing-scientific-discoveries-we-dont-know-what-to-do-with To be honest I hate how whenever an article comes up they mention rossi should really be talking about the stuff nasa or Duncun is doing.

  • Andrew

    3d printing will have a profound impact on socity and the associated drawbacks. Just like cold fusion it has the potential for great good/bad. If our forefathers and past innovators got hung up about every drawback of the things they were inventing we would still be in the stone age. Socity, lawmakers and government will adaptbut we cannot afford to hold progress back because of fear or greed. Currently we are persueig commercial space exploration, even in this there is a void of rules and laws why is there no fearmongering with this? Essentialy these company’s once in space can do anything they want because they’re out of everyone’s durisdiction.

  • barty

    a new LENR experiment report from swedish scientists was released on lenr news!


    • Peter Roe

      Nice try, but they probably have another few hundred ‘fails’ to go before they hit paydirt.

  • Sanjeev

    Gizmag article – NASA’s basement nuclear reactor, is spreading like fire.
    Even got to /. front page.

    • artefact

      Just a little foretaste of Rossis third party test and a happy customer

  • Sanjeev

    Gizmag article – NASA’s basement nuclear reactor, is spreading like fire.
    Even got to slashdot front page.

  • If you think the financial powerhouses are going to meekly fade into the background as LENR, 3D printing, nano technology emerge or try to emerge, I have a bridge to sell you.
    They are going to try to control every aspect of their introduction and use. On the other hand, without financial incentives these technologies and future technologies might never be developed. Questions: Do away with all patents go the Chinese route, all trade secrets? These technologies were not created in a vacuum, society as a whole, education system, infrastructure etc etc., played a part in their creation, how much of the financial gain should be returned to society? Create new more harsh laws for stealing IP? Wikipedia
    definition of deflation: “In economics, deflation is a decrease in the general price level of goods and services.” The US Federal Reserve is deathly afraid of deflation, will these technologies cause deflation? Will reducing the work week work? Will increasing the minimum wage help and/or work?

  • georgehants

    National Instruments expanding in Austin
    Fri, 02/22/2013 – 8:30am
    The Associated Press
    National Instruments Corp. plans to spend $80 million to expand its Texas
    research and development complex and create about 1,000 technical and
    engineering jobs.
    Austin-based National Instruments will received $4.4 million through the Texas Enterprise Fund.
    Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday announced the funding in support of the
    company’s plan that includes building a 300,000-square-foot facility
    adjacent to its current site.
    National Instruments designs and
    manufactures electronic measurement hardware and software. It operates
    in more than 40 countries.

    • GreenWin

      Likely that Dr. Truchard will be expanding NI’s investment in LENR research. Shortly we will be seeing other instrumentation companies climbing aboard the cold fusion train.

      • Peter Roe

        I wouldn’t normally root for any corporation, but in this case I hope their interest and investment pays off for them, and vindicates Dr Truchard’s support for LENR.

  • Werner
  • AstralProjectee

    If you’ll like this then you will like this too.

    Lee Cronin: Print your own medicine

    The ‘chemputer’ that could print out any drug http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/jul/21/chemputer-that-prints-out-drugs

    Or google search: 3D print OR printed gun

    I don’t think the printed gun is a good idea, but printing molecules I think would be a good idea.

    • Peter Roe

      I know what happened when I found ways to synthesise certain molecules at college. Interesting times lie ahead.

  • AlainCo

    off-topic for you rinfo:
    a news from nasa (zawodny) spread accross mainstream science news… physorg, gizmo,…

    add for widom-larsen seems over selling, but it raise interest..

    there it seems quite positiveely recevied…


  • Joel C.

    Here’s something Georgehants might like to read:

    Carver Mead: ‘A bunch of big egos’ are strangling science
    The scientific revolution has stalled, here’s how to kickstart it
    February 22, 2013


    • georgehants

      Joel C, thank you, all True but it is not me I think that needs to read and absorb such writings but science itself and of course the same thing applies to almost every area in life.
      “The high-minded man must care more for the truth than for what people think.”
      — Aristotle

    • GreenWin

      Carver is right on many fronts. He says of Charles Townes (inventor of LASER) “…history has shown that it wasn’t Charlie who didn’t know how quantum
      mechanics works, it was the pontifical experts in the field who didn’t
      know how it worked.”

      He is also right that: the key to a more intuitive explanation of the universe lies in not only
      the interrelationships of matter and forces, but also a better
      understanding of the electron. “We need to treat the wave functions of
      our electrons as real wave functions,”
      he said.

  • DP

    3d printing is great but it will destroy millions of jobs.

    Its becoming clear the 40 hour workweek needs to be cut soon or face a race to the bottom for fewer jobs!

    • Peter Roe

      No contest – it’ll be the latter. That’s what this whole ‘economic crisis’ is for.

  • yamal

    having the tools to do something is one thing. using them is quite another. 2d-printing totally changed the world but when it came to everybody’s desktop, the impact was modest. at the time some people expected it would revolutionize publishing because you could buy a book or newspaper on a diskette and print it out yourself. but of course nobody did and by the time distribution was solved using the internet, paper wasn’t fashionable any more and people read on screens rather than paper. when desktop publishing came along, it was assumed that millions of do-it-yourself newspapers would pop up all over the world but that didn’t happen either because being able to print is only a small and trivial part of publishing. violating copyrights in 2d is as old as xerox as well as violating copyrights in music, is as old as the cassette recorder. same with video and software and even with solid, complex objects. today you can buy copies of everything from rolex watches to gucci suits.3d-printing on the desktop will certainly add to that but it won’t change the world nearly as much as it did when it first came to industrial prototyping in the 1960s.

  • Roberto

    The more the science and knowledge the more the owes and worry for human kind – Let us go back to the simple life to regain the lost happiness.

    • yamal

      i can only assume that when you talk about regaining the lost happiness you’re not referring to running away from sabre tooth tigers or starving because that damned mammoth didn’t die when you clubbed it over the head.

  • georgehants

    3-D Printed Ear Helps Children Born with Deformities
    February 22nd, 2013,
    A team of researchers working with the Cornell University
    now maintain that children suffering because of a congenital deformity
    known to science as microtia can be treated with the help of 3-D printed
    ears that look and behave strikingly similar to natural ones.

  • georgehants

    Sounds like science at it’s best —-
    International collaboration seeks to develop noninvasive quantum electron microscope
    February 21, 2013
    Moving closer to creating a microscope that can peer through atoms and
    molecules without disturbing them, leading physics researchers have
    joined together with support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
    to launch an international collaboration to lay the groundwork for the
    development of a novel quantum electron microscope.
    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-02-international-collaboration-noninvasive-quantum-electron.html#jCp

  • Omega Z

    There’s a lot they can do now, but will probably be drug out over years before it becomes available to mainstream.




    There’s also multiple projects of growing parts instead of printing. Artery’s are already being grown & used in surgery. Bone for bone graphs. Possibly a dozen things already being done. Just not publicized.

  • Jonas

    Yes, we’re in for some fundamental changes. I’m not too worried about the intellectual property issues, as you don’t HAVE to print out a pair of adidas sneakers, when you can, in fact, design them on your own!

    However, this fact – that everyone will be a designer – paired with that copyright issue initially (people will copy a lot, even if just for designing own stuff) will bring down any old conventional company and with it capitalism as a whole. We need to prepare for that – very soon to come – situation. Especially if one could start making the actual materials for 3D-printing at home too (e.g. by growing algae in tanks and then making oil from them to make plastics) – which should have to be the next revolution.

    Imagine having the capability at home to produce all the energy you need, all the materials you need, and all the products you need. Put some food home growing techniques to that and there’d be no more work, no more poverty, no more stress.

    Perhaps, though, there’d still be need for politics, perhaps even stricter, as you’d have people ‘roaming the streets’ with endless amounts of time on their hands; traditionally such a thing can lead to dangerous situations. Especially when also considering the potential to 3D-print buildings. Then I could settle down in any odd forest I’d like, and maybe there’d be some conflicts of interests on this, if more than one person desides on a particular area in which to live. Initially this could make us less prone to fight, though, as we’d simply meet less – we would scatter around the globe, living in scenic areas rather than close to work or shops.

    Perhaps many of us would also be increasingly living in ‘cults’ or other religious situations (as more free time equals more anxiety, something that needs to be filled) – which could potentially make us go ‘to war’ on our neighbouring ‘tribes’. Hopefully, though, we’d be more at ease with our lives, and perhaps population growth would halt – then we could make it peacefully.

    Basically, thus, I see a great need for debate on the issue, to prepare us for it. And what is needed for this, the greatest of the individualistic ventures in the history of mankind, is both an increased sence of ‘brotherhood’, a mutual respect for a fellow ‘printarians’, but also a greater need for entertainment and ‘time-filling’ activities. Of course the internet will be our global community, and besides the increase in all kinds of entertainment (imagine how many festivals there will be..!), actually designing our products will take a lot of time, and will give many of us a great sence of achievement and satisfaction.

    One thing still needed, though, all rantings aside, is the ability to ‘print’ out in soft materials, i.e. fabrics – a home stitching, knitting, and sewing robot, so as to also make us independent of the clothing factories. Of course there already exists such machines, but they are still expensive, and I really lack the function to automatically manufacture e.g. a jacket at home. Of course, a big enough 3D-printer with the ability to print ‘soft’ – e.g. printing ‘weaved’ walls, with very small ‘moving parts’, would make the need for stitches alltogether obsolete, and you’d print a whole pair of pants instead of cutting and stitching together fabrics.

    • georgehants

      Jonas, agreed, but I feel that when capitalistic money is abandoned and people have the leisure time denied them now solely by capitalisms need to keep people working at any pointless job, mainly of course in finance and money itself, then people will very quickly begin to use their free time productively in helping others. entertainment, learning, etc. etc.
      This is the time that people will only be rewarded for their contributions to society as a whole, no inherited wealth and privileged but each individual free to progress in any area.
      When dustman and nurses will be recognised as far more important than financial “experts” etc.
      No patents etc to protect, just individual achievers in any area fairly rewarded above the norm.

    • mabinator

      I don’t know if population growth will slow down at all. If people can afford to have more kids then, why not? There’ll be a lot more room when we can irrigate and fertilize our deserts. We’ll eventually fill it but I doubt that will be in any of our lifetimes.

      • Peter Roe

        People act ultimately through selfish motives. In poorer countries people will often have as many children as possible to help them farm, or in the hope that some of them will survive into middle age and support them in turn. When survival is ensured by other means of income and reliable pension provisions, they begin to see extra children as an avoidable expense that will cut into their own ‘lifestyle’, and so have fewer of them.

        • AlainCo

          yes, that is the reason of demographic transition.
          most funny is that it is know since many decades that all malthusian fear are crazy… yet they succeed in UNO… sign there is a problem (note I’m not a libertarian at all, quite statist in fact, but ther it does not work)

          fear of water dsruption is crazy too… many fear too…

        • mabinator

          I suppose there will be people in both camps. It just remains to be seen which is the majority. Either way though, with unlimited energy, we shouldn’t have to worry about overcrowding for a long time yet.

  • Gerrit

    There is a slashdot story about the Nasa basement reactor:


    I think wild claims about Rossi’s e-cat will not convince many people, but references to accepted scientific work might make a lot of people very curious about this topic.

    • Peter Roe

      I particularly like this comment from some tro11: “Looks like a rebranded version of cold fusion, from the same frothing, foaming-at-the-mouth fraudsters, weirdos and cranks. Slashdot editors and commentors are so credulous.” You can almost see the spittle on this shill’s screen as it stabs at the keyboard.

      • Gerrit

        as long as that comment only has a score 1, we should not give it any visibility by replying to it.

        My comment (by Moabz) got a “score 5 interesting”. Touch down !

        • Peter Roe

          Feeding tro11s is always a waste of time anyway. This one seems to me massively outnumbered (and outgunned) by more serious commenters.

      • GreenWin

        Yes. While reading the above, I felt a tiny splash of virtual spittle above my eye. Fearing it would burn, I rushed to the loo and washed up with soap and warm water. Once safe, I contemplated, acidic shills might suffer Oedipal complexes.

  • Nixter

    Concepts like this can change human capabilities in profound ways. The 3D printers of today will be considered to be crude implementations of an early technology by our descendants. How long before we can print at the molecular level? Next we will have 3D printers capable of laying down matter at the atomic level, at that point the possibilities become so profound that even the people using them if the deep future will be awed by the extent of their technological significance.

    • Peter Roe

      I caught a snippet on the box the other night about a modified 3D printer that was ‘printing’ simple body parts using cassettes full of living cells of different types. So imagine in the future the ability to quickly fabricate any body part so it can be used to replace a failing organ, perhaps a missing limb or to repair almost any other damage.

      • GreenWin

        I could use a new left foot.

        • Peter Roe

          Yes, I’m composing my shopping list, too!