The revolution will be 3D printed
Holodecks, hoverboards, gravity guns – just a few of the sci-fi gadgets that are still sadly missing from our lives. But fear not, there is one fictional tech that’s about to enrich our reality – the Star Trek replicator. Its real-world equivalent, 3D printing, can’t yet rustle up a baguette from thin air, but in the next few years it’s going to send shockwaves through manufacturing and change the way you buy things. Bespoke products will become the norm, and you need never struggle to get your hands on a spare part again. But it won’t be good news for everyone.
Physical products being replaced by digital files? We’ve been here before, as the music industry will attest. And as it discovered, ones and zeroes are a lot easier to copy and distribute than atoms. For some, the threat of 3D piracy lurks in these uncharted waters – but for us, an exciting personalised future awaits…
Founded three years ago, this New York company has been the pioneer of open-source 3D printers – starting with the DIY Thing-O-Matic 2010, and this year following up with the pre-built MakerBot Replicator.
The makers of the Cube 3D printer also offer an online store that lets ‘Cubify artists’ upload and sell 3D designs or, like Sculpteo and Shapeways, get models printed using its Cloud 3D Print Service.
This French service lets you design or upload 3D creations to its site in most file formats, then pops a tri-dimensional version in the post to you. An iOS app also lets you cut your teeth by customising a selection of objects from its favourite designers.
Leading the way in the mildly terrifying field of ‘bioprinting’, this San Diego-based startup has 3D-printed muscle, lung and blood vessel tissue and has its sights set on making complete organs for transplants.