A device that can build anything imaginable from scratch has long been a staple of science fiction. Now it’s everyday news, with stories of people printing their own chocolate, furniture, and even guns. The growth of 3D printing for medical and business purposes has been called the second industrial revolution because it moves manufacturing from the factory floor to the desktop. This has lead to some unusual and often shocking uses of 3D printers.
Here are some of most unusual recent stories of how people are using 3D printers in new an inventive ways:
Research scientists at Heriot Watt University in Scotland have successfully used an adjustable “microvalve” printing method to construct human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), layer by layer. Elsewhere, multiphoton polymerisation has been used to 3D print blood vessels. Fully functional organs, individually custom-built from the patient’s DNA are the next hurtle. Transplants and the likelihood of tissue rejection won’t be an issue anymore when you can rebuild any damaged organs and tissues using your own stem cells. The question is: When you start replacing all of your original parts, are you still you?
A better you
Princeton just printed an ear with the ability to hear frequencies outside the range of human hearing. Another medical enhancement created by 3D printer is WREX, mechanical arms for a little girl born without the ability to use her own. Although repairing injury and disease will be the first line of these kinds of developments, it won’t be long before perfectly healthy people decide to augment their abilities. For one thing, it will be fascinating to see how the Olympics Committee deals with that.
There are no good suits off the rack. Tailoring makes all the difference. If you could select the fabric, the color dying process and every other detail down to the refractory index of the buttons, that might be a pretty nice suit. Now imagine doing that with everything you buy in stores today. All you have to do is custom design anything and the experts at Shapeways will print it for you. A toy that looks like your child, a bathtub molded to your body, some strange new technology of your own invention that could change the world. As shops like these pop up all over the world, everyone will be able to take their imagination for a test drive.
There are many more examples in the news of how 3D printing are driving innovation to levels our culture just was not prepared for in any way. Like so much that is happening in science these days, 3D printing amply demonstrates how our technical abilities and our reasoning capacity don’t always evolve at the same rate.