Waking Up to the Disruption of 3D Printing

Here’s an article on 3D Printing that I think will be of interest to E-Cat World readers, largely because it deals with topics that we have discussed here in terms of energy for a long time. Gary Beato on Reason.com has written a piece titled, “The 3D Economy: Forget guns, what happens when everyone prints their own shoes?” in which he looks at the long term global implications of 3D printing which he sees as being one of the Next Big Things.

His main focus is on what will happen if and when 3D printing moves beyond the domain of hobbyists, and millions of people worldwide state printing their own products which are now provided by large and small companies.

Imagine what will happen when millions of people start using the tools that produced The Liberator to make, copy, swap, barter, buy, and sell all the quotidian stuff with which they furnish their lives. Rest in peace, Bed, Bath & Beyond. Thanks for all the stuff, Foxconn, but we get our gadgets from Pirate Bay and MEGA now.

Once the retail and manufacturing carnage starts to scale, the government carnage will soon follow. How can it not, when only old people pay sales tax, fewer citizens obtain their incomes from traditional easy-to-tax jobs, and large corporate taxpayers start folding like daily newspapers? Without big business, big government can’t function.

Beato mentions the fact that currently 3D printers are slow, and many of the printed products are inferior in finish and quality to mass-produced goods, but predicts that in time that will change. He mentions a printer called Zeus which is being developed as “The first and only device that allows users to 3D scan, print, copy, and fax objects with a touch of a button from one device” by a startup called AIO Robotics in Los Angeles, and says, ” If you decide you really, really like the pasta bowl your mom gave you for Christmas, you don’t even have to go to the mall, or surf Amazon.com to get another. Just throw it in Zeus and push a button!”

He sees technology like this as forever altering consumer consumption, with obvious knock-on effects for manufacturing, retailing, employment and ultimately government revenues. And it’s from the government that he expects a lot of the push-back t come — in the name of consumer protection.

Another article highlighting some concerns about 3D printing is by Lyndsey Gilpin on Techrepublic.com who brings up 10 problematic or dangerous aspects of 3D printing that she thinks we need to be aware of. She states that 3D printers are 1) energy hogs, 2) produce harmful emissions (similar to smoking), 3) rely on plastics and thus produce hazardous plastic waste, 4) allow for easy piracy of IP rights, 5) make it easy to get around gun laws, 6) liability issues are not defined, 7) allow for bypassing bioethical standards, 8) make possible the printing of dangerous or unregulated drugs, 9) produce objects and products that could pose national security risks, 10) produce products that could be health hazards when they come in contact with food (like plates and forks).

I don’t think there is any way to put a stop to the technological development of 3D printing. There are giant companies like Amazon, Adobe, HP, and UPS getting involved in the industry, and the convenience and versatility of the technology has such clear benefits, that I can only see it expanding. Economic disruption is unavoidable, but I think the benefits to people the world over in terms of inexpensive and superior goods may ultimately be a net positive, even considering the effects on business and employment. This is especially true if energy production becomes less expensive and more widely distributed, as is the hope of those who see LENR as a significant energy breakthrough.

It’s early days, for sure, and we can’t predict the pace and trajectory of all these advances, but there does seem to be something of an inevitability about radical technological transformation. We may be heading towards a time where inexpensive, distributed energy and manufacturing will obviate the need for employment as we currently know it. What if a person could make things cheaply at home that they currently buy at the stores? Would there be the same need for jobs for survival that we see now?

  • Obvious

    Although it had been shown that Scientists cannot Measure anything in their perview, and therefore are Incapable of Measuring the soul or where it goes after death, it is still provable that eating souls alone cannot lead to Ultimate Power. Since Absolute Power corrupts absolutely, eating too much meat will cause bodily corruption and injure the soul. As Zeno has shown it is impossible to reach the final destination by travelling on a single course composed of half measures. Therefore the soul must be fed with things other than meat to reach the stage of a being of Superior Power, although meat can make you strong to a point.

    • Obvious

      New computer. Can’t find the sarcasm button. To paraphrase the Dead Milkmen, I walk the thinnest line between the right and left sides of my mind.

  • georgehants

    observer, your sly reply seems to be at a very low level of debate, I hope to keep up my past level of respect for you, so try again with a worthwhile comment and we shall see what can be said.
    ——–
    You said ” I can make you a have-not simply by having?”
    I say then let us share then we will both have.

  • georgehants

    How Wonderful it will be when the replicators can produce all our meat and food.
    When cannibalism of out fellow creatures can end.
    When everybody can have enough food and clean water to survive and flourish instead of just “the lucky ones”.
    When the capitalistic domination of the slow thinking can end.
    The future looks bright, Cold Fusion, replicators , all the tools for a better life for all, we just need to educate the uneducated.

    • Daniel Maris

      Yes, I am not sure 3D printing will deliver all that very quickly. Can’t see your average peasant having the resources to buy one. However, there are a lot of technological developments that are helping the poor. One of the most effective has been the mobile phone, which suddenly connects very poor people to a limitless amount of information.

      I think if we can bring down the price of energy and free energy from the grid with LENR then extraction of water from the atmosphere becomes possible, to deliver highly efficient irrigation. That could really transform the lives of poor peasants.

      • georgehants

        Daniel, I really hope so.
        We must remember that hidden amongst those “peasants” could be the greatest artist, scientist etc. that the World has ever known.
        Just never given an equal chance to mature.
        One day.

  • Bob Greenyer

    I have met the director, Bram, of this company in 3rd quarter last year as part of a 3D Printing research program I am conducting. The day before they had 1700 printing sites across the globe, today, 3845.

    http://www.3dhubs.com/

    You don’t need to own a printer to take part.

  • Alan DeAngelis

    It’s just a cutting tool. You can’t synthesize molecules with it. So, you can’t make drugs with it.

  • gdaigle

    There are several technologies for 3D printing involving not just FDM, but also sintering, UV lasers, ceramic powders, etc. I was fortunate to be on the design team for the first commercial FDM printer, which uses the plastic filaments described by Gilpin. Not nearly as fume-ridden as using liquid polymers, but still, you wouldn’t want to open the hood and breathe deeply while operational.

    I can imagine how filaments might be composed of a nano-nickel matrix loaded with hydrogen and extruded to create thin shells to be more evenly heated by complex hot-cat type combustion chambers… or to extrude it as a resistive heating element to put the heat exactly where it is needed when the reaction is primed via electricity. At a time when (small) automotive bodies and even houses are being 3D printed, there is much new territory to be explored.

  • Barry8

    So many technologies seem to be pointing toward the same new frontier. We have entered the “Nano age.”

    • LENR G

      We should be pouring money into it instead of nickel (<—!)and diming it. The return would be way higher than 1. More like 100.

      You want to eliminate deficits? Spend as much as possible on nanotechnology and nanoengineering.

  • GreenWin

    This should not astonish or annoy IMO. Since, the revolution underway is to extract ourselves from the oppression of big brother. Big brother steals its power from regular peeps by convincing them that consumerism and debt is “success.” It is slavery. Provided the user of the chemputer does not harm another being – what business is it of ours? The human experience is meant to be fun. If the chemputer makes it more so for some… who are we to judge?

  • psi2u2

    Bachcole, do we agree that the world contains both “zero-sum” and “positive sum” elements and that culture thrives more on the latter than the former? -and that the decentralization of production from LENR and desktop 3-d printing has the potential at least to enhance the “positive sum” style of human cultures? At least I am sure that I share your dislike for headbutting from ideological positions!

  • Daniel Maris

    In the UK we have little shops and kiosks where you can get keys cut and a few other useful things sorted – I can imagine some of these will start to buy quite sophisticated 3D printers. Then we will go to them for our printing needs. Smaller and cheaper printers will be found in the home, but mostly for children’s toys I think.

  • georgehants

    Hi observer, I have no idea what “zero-sum” or a “positive-sum game” are, tell me which one of them means that many people do not have to suffer so that others can excel.

  • jousterusa

    I think everyone has seen the futuristic movie. You ask for bacon and eggs and they pop out of a chute or something a few seconds later. Now we can ask for new shoes, too! What a truly amazing device! I have a pull missing from the drawer of my grandfather’s old desk, and I will get it replaced and painted bronze when I hear of one of these printers becoming available around here. You’re right, Frank – this will change the world in many ways. I guess the machines will be sold on the basis of what they can print, or are stocked to print: metals would have one price point, plastics another – or will everything be made of plastic? Scientifically speaking, if a machine could assemble nanopartices, it could construct molecules of anything. I could get a new pair of dentures!

  • Rick Allen

    show me a three-dimensional printer that can print me a pair of Asics running shoes, with all the materials is composed of, and with the shoe laces installed and I will be impressed.

  • Obvious

    To bad printing clean water costs too much.

    • GreenWin

      Making potable water is an extractive process. Dirty water – minus pollutants/minerals/salts etc = clean water. With multistage flash thermal desal is efficient and cheap – provided LENR heat is source energy.

      • Obvious

        I suppose we will just have to LENR away the concentrated pollutants/minerals/salts residue too.

        • mcloki

          Won’t they be trapped in the salt?

          • Obvious

            But that’s just garbage in its can.

            • GreenWin

              Israel and coastal nations use various desal tech (flash & reverse osmosis) to provide up to 75% of their fresh water needs. Graphene filtration looks to be a good tangential tech. Earth’s oceans contain enough fuel (H2, H1, D2) and clean water source for organic evolution — until transition to non-organic (post-human) lifeforms. Ted Chu NYU Prof Abu Dahbi, & Michio Kaku avatar, discuss these transitions on coast to coast 3/24/14. The discussion confirms achievement of Type 1 status for planet Earth – a primary goal for entry into the galactic community. But Prof Chu warns of culture shock at higher intelligence disclosure. And the human race will struggle to understand how advanced civilizations/cultures tolerate immoral, unethical behavior within their own.

  • georgehants

    Even with the present level of production there is no need for an economy, only the sensible organisation of production and labour and no I am not saying communism but a completely new democratic fair “ism”

  • georgehants

    I hope that some of the first practical uses found for this technology, as with Cold Fusion, include such things as water filters and drugs etc. for countries and people where they are needed, to bypass the the capitalistic mentality that demands many people have nothing so that others can swim in Plenty.
    Handled correctly (Ha) it could be good for more than the few to reincarnate here in a few years time.

    • mcloki

      I see greenhouses for locally grown produce really taking off if LENR is that cost effective. Heated, natural and lit hydroponic.

  • Iggy Dalrymple

    I’ve got a Colombian female cyber-friend I would like to make a 3D interactive doll of.
    On a more practical note, melt down my worn out crocs and print new ones conformed to my scanned feet.

    • OaklandThinkTank

      Ah, you illuminate the heart of 3D printing – personalization. Definitely a valuable market for prosthetic limbs, artistic furnishings and accoutrements, and maybe a few kinks or niche applications. The technological questions for 3D printing, though: for items that I /don’t/ need personalized, will 3D ever be /cheaper/ than ‘hard-coded’ mass production? And, for the basic needs, what /portion/ do I need personalized, and what /marginal value/ does personalization provide, over the value of mass-produced versions? Industrialized nations will see growth in personalized items, but I’m not sure the rest of the world would get a 3D printer – desalination sounds more practical, and maybe roads and hospitals, next. And, as a portion of the global economy, I don’t see 3D printed items as a large percent of output, simply because mass production has higher speed, providing higher throughput per unit of capital. Given 3D printers’ print-speed, they have to maintain near-continuous and dense production runs, to recover their capital investment. Cheap energy makes mass production more favorable than 3D printing, too: while a printer has high energy requirements per unit of product, and we would see savings from cheap energy, mass production can handle a wider set of operating conditions and power densities per unit capital. Cheap energy will make electrolysis of titanium easier, and we’re more likely to see a few companies mass-cast ultralight car bodies and components, rather than each of us buying a 3D printer to dot-assemble a personalized car.

      So… if you have a 3D printer, and want to make a living off personalized items, you would likely take others’ print-demands and fulfill a local niche. No one needs their OWN printer, because it would see such low capital use rates. We’d still need to earn income to get mass-produced items, or at least raw materials, or the land that has them… If you have an apartment in San Francisco, and sell personalized Etsy items, 3D printing actually threatens your livelihood with clone-knockoffs.

      • mcloki

        Or 3D printing turns you into an Etsy superstar. I think 3D printing makes boutique shops that produce household items a huge reality.

        • OaklandThinkTank

          ? …as soon as I make a cool design, anyone with a lower cost of production can clone it… The first Etsy 3D print suppliers /are/ making a lot of money (I spoke with a fellow from SF who makes 3D printed prosthetic limbs; he told me about a woman who is doing very well with her 3D print sales on Etsy…), but their market share is fragile.

  • Pekka Janhunen

    Trying out various printed goods would be more practical and more fun if there would be an easy way of recycling them. Ideally the printer itself should be able to digest and melt its products and reuse them. In other words, the printing step should be undoable.

    • GreenWin

      Saw a recent demo of a home-style 3D unit Prism X from Terawatt – the ABS plastic filament is proprietary, claiming to be better than other products. This seems to be a profit center, so home recycling may not be a priority. On the other hand, ABS printed objects can be tossed into plastics recycling bins anywhere.

  • Sanjeev

    It will not be disruptive, just an addition to the standard of living. It will be raised worldwide.
    The real disruption will happen once these printers start printing at molecular level, fully functioning things, including food, drinks, organs and medicines. Something like the star trek assembler (or whatever its called).

    Btw, LENR heaters are a good application for the hot end (nozzle which extrudes the molten plastic) of these printers. These things consume most energy. 3D printer community is very open minded (an understatement) and will not care what academics and media say about LENR, they will simply start using it asap.

    • bachcole

      I am more than the sum of my parts. My food is more than the sum of it’s parts. Trying to eat food that is built up from what we think are it’s parts will be a disaster and will result of more deaths and maimings. That is probably far enough into the future that I don’t need to worry about it personally. But if you disagree, don’t warn your family line about it. I will warn my family about it. My family line will thrive by eating food that they grow in their backyard (thanks to LENR). Your (generic your) family line will eat this totally artificial food and they will DIE and be maimed.

      • Sanjeev

        You worry too much bachcole. Let them print the food and experiment. If people start dying from it, we can discuss it then. Presently, I see millions dying because there is no food at all…….not even printed one. I talk about them when I say disruption. Disruption is not when you get one more shiny thing to show off, its when whole of the humanity is raised a step closer to what a human being should be.

        • bachcole

          I’m not worried at all. I just know for a FACT that artificial food will eventually be our lead pipes (nemesis of the Roman Empire). These problems can remain hidden in the genome for 2 or 3 generations before they show up. Studies in Scandinavia prove that excessive eating makes one’s grandchildren sicker. Other studies prove that a person eating processed foods can harm unconceived children and grandchildren. Acquired “characteristics” in the form of processed foods and fake foods ARE inherited.

          • Sanjeev

            I see, you are probably extrapolating the same effects to something which does not exist yet, no body has made or ate a replicated 3d printed food item yet and it may not happen for next 20 years. If its found that there are problems with it , these problems will be solved in mere months. Assuming that everyone will keep eating printed food and keep dying is…. somewhat funny.

    • georgehants

      Sanjeev, I think you mean the Star Trek replicator, just imagine a World where we do not need to massacre millions of conscious animals for us to survive.

      • Sanjeev

        Ya replicator. Google has already started in that direction with their synthetic meat project. I wish them all the best. A day will come when killing animals for eating purposes will be illegal, just as it is illegal now to kill them for fun. (Now I’ve drifted too off topic and some people will not like the mention of making their lunch illegal, its too early for many and will be a shocking idea.)

        • bachcole

          “synthetic meat project” I damn them to hell for all eternity for this.

          • Pekka Janhunen

            The idea is that it’s alive, like muscle cells taken apart and grown separately, just the brain is missing. I guess I didn’t understand your problem.

          • Obvious

            Eating souls makes me powerful. This has been demonstrated by cannibals world-wide. That’s why I eat meat. Plant souls are less powerful, so they don’t have the soul density for true power gains required for super beings.

        • Rick Allen

          I would not want to live on a planet where I could not kill an animal to eat it.

    • Iggy Dalrymple

      Maybe good to make baklava, using regular ingredients.

    • Iggy Dalrymple
    • Iggy Dalrymple
  • Job001

    The “Normalcy” bias would have us assume things will continue fairly much “as is”. However, with things having insignificant value, so may IP go, and exchange of things may discontinue, since exchange costs may exceed obtain costs(consider how many things are now “Throw away rather than repair”).

    Society may slowly change with knowledge especially as evidenced by neurological studies of how we organize knowledge, AI, biases, fallacies, reality model assumptions, web knowledge tools, etc. Humans took a long time to evolve to adaptability some say and others say not, so change is of low value and likely to be slow and opposed.

  • Gerard McEk

    To my feeling the disruption of 3D printing will be not that dramatic. It is a totally different level as CF will be. I guess it will not go much further than prototype manufacturing and special (one off) production. I do not see these things in every house.

    • Sanjeev

      Some people said the same for PCs and printers (text on paper type). We see them in every home now. You can not stop an useful invention from going ubiquitous. 3D printers are already on the threshold of becoming a household item. How do I know that ? I do, because I’m already earning about 25% of my income from 3D printed goods !!

      Not only average people, many major industries will adopt additive manufacturing (that’s the formal term), or they will perish.

      • Daniel Maris

        Sanjeev , ink printers don’t have the same health and safety issues. At the very least I would imagine you will need ducting of fumes from the manufacturing processes involved. Then you will have to store a lot of different materials – of if you are buying a complete set of materials that is going to be very expensive.

        • Sanjeev

          No I’m not directly comparing them to ink printers. Just that no one in old days thought that anyone could possess a printing machine or a powerful computer. Actually people thought that these will be useless for common people.
          You can buy a good 3D printer today, approved by authorities and whoever makes laws about health hazards, so I guess the safety issues are taken care of. There are no issues about materials yet, because most of them use only plastic. But yes to print in multiple materials would be expensive at present and will need more safety measures.
          If anyone wants to remain on the cutting edge of this tech, here is a G+ community:
          https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/117814474100552114108

  • kevinee

    In the year 2025, I bought a car. The diagnostics system told me when a part needed replacing and how to replace it. And it was designed so every part was accessible and replaceable with a 3D printed part.
    In the year 2030, I bought a house…

    • GreenWin

      Like it! The exception is as ICE is replaced by electric motors, there are FAR fewer parts. And FAR fewer malfunctions since the base system is a battery driven motor. But it’ll be interesting to see if the electronics can be “printed” for home repair.