[FoRK] short-term predictions: 2014, 2017, 2022

Damien Morton dmorton at bitfurnace.com
Thu Jun 14 04:21:00 PDT 2012

On Thu, Jun 14, 2012 at 5:32 AM, Eugen Leitl <eugen at leitl.org> wrote:

> > > Don't forget that rapid prototyping today is only the camel's
> > > nose first appearing in the tent. Eventually, the whole
> > > molecular manufacturing animal is to follow.
> > >
> >
> > Hmm, maybe in scifi novels.
> If you roll back 200 years, everything you now see around you is science
> fiction.
> We've managed to move a lot of things from the realm of science fiction
> to science fact in the mere 45 years I've been around.
> > Next 20 years, rapid prototyping will be
> I don't recall having mentioned a particular time frame. I actually
> agree that in 20 years we should be able to progress to build fully
> functional macrosacle devices capable of walking off the staging area,
> but that's about it.
> > mechanistic - a 3d counterpart to laser and inkjet printing. We dont have
> Why, a ~um voxel depositor capable to integrate sensors, actuators, logic
> and power into an extruded block is exactly that.
> > 2d molecular assemblers today, so its pie in the sky to imagine them for
> You don't need to be able to specify 300 nm flat surfaces down to ~0.1 pm
> in order to build useful objects. ~um at up to ~mm to ~cm total deposited
> layer
> across A4 to A3 surface would do plenty.
I am looking around my living room and kitchen to see what could be done
with a 1200dpi A3 voxel printer. I am assuming we can print power
electronics and some basic digital circuits, and I am assuming we can print
metals to some degree.

Most of the furniture and cabinetry is too big.

There's a lot of stuff that's mass manufactured and/or disposable - it will
always be cheaper to make that with specialised machines. Plastic bags,
bottles, boxes, containers and such.

There's my electronics - laptop, screen, keyboard, camera, headphones,
bluetooth speakers, cellphone. The value of this stuff comes from
specialised components and materials. I guess I can imagine printing
enclosures for it, and maybe some mechanical parts.

There are some odds and ends on my desk - a roll of medical tape, a pair
of scissors, a book, a stapler, a light globe, the transformer. Of those,
maybe the stapler, the book, and the transformer could be printed.

There's a bunch of kitesurfing gear - the kites are made from exotic
fabric, and much bigger than A3. Same with the board. The harness, again
made from high-strength fabrics, foam, and steel. I guess some parts could
be printed, like buckles, quick-release components and such. Lots of
high-strength requirements, which may or may not limit printability.

Kitchenware: knives, forks, plates, pots pans etc. Some of this could be
printed. There's a toaster, which I guess could be printed. There's also a
Microwave and refrigerator. I guess you could print a microwave, or large
parts of it anyway. The refrigerator is too big, but even if it wasnt, I
guess you could print a lot it, except when it came to things like

There's an exhaust fan in the kitchen, and I have actually meditated on
this as a candidate for 3d printing. Most of it could be printed, but
there's a motor in there and bearings, both of which I find hard to imagine
being printed. The motor employs high strength magnets (though I admit that
you can have motors without magnets), and bearings, well, these need to be
round, which any voxel tech will always have trouble with, not to mention
the requirement for super hard materials.

Outside is a bicycle. Lets ignore the A3 printing area thing and take a
look at the bike. The frame could well be printed, as could the seat and
wheels. I guess I could imagine the brakes being printed. Drivetrain, I
could imagine being printed, but probably wouldn't last as long or be as
efficient as something made using specialised materials and processes. So
yeah, I guess I can imagine printing a bike, or at least, substantial
portions of a bike, with the additions of some specialised components.

So, I guess my place is pretty bare, but there really isn't that much stuff
here that it would make sense to 3d print.

The problem seems to be that the daily-use cheap stuff is made so
efficiently, and from specialised materials, that printed
stuff wouldn't compete on price or functionality.

There's a middle layer of stuff that tends to be too big - stuff like
furniture. For this, I might imagine a neighbourhood print-shop that will
make bulk stuff from patterns you bring in.

And there's layer of high value stuff that gets its value from being
produced from specialised materials and processes (not to mention IP) - my
electronics stuff mostly.

There are two projects I have been working on - making physical stuff - for
which a 3d printer would come in handy.

One project is making a life jacket - and for making prototypes, a 3d
printer would be incredibly helpful. Bladders, valves, buckles, pouches -
all could be done on the printer. For manufacturing, again, specialised
materials are called for. I have read of people making short-life molds for
plastic parts in 3d printers. I think this kind of thing has a lot of
potential for reducing the capital costs in bringing a product to market.

Another project is a desktop factory for making the air bladders used in
kites. There's a lot of specialised mechanics that go into making
industrial automation like this, but being able to design and print custom
parts like adaptors, mounting plates etc etc, would make making the thing a
whole lot easier. The air bladders themselves are made from specialised
plastic films and it wouldnt make sense to try to print them.

Go to http://www.shapeways.com/gallery/ and take a look at what people are
doing with 3d printers.

Under Art you have a bunch of odd shaped stuff. On the first page, nothing
really appeals to me.

They have a section for Fashion, and yeah, I guess there is some
interesting stuff there. Some of it is pretty geeky, like MC Escher
inspired ear-rings
http://www.shapeways.com/model/125472/escherian-head-earring.html , theres
also a lot of bio inspired shapes like
http://www.shapeways.com/model/212355/spiral-cuff-szl.html that could
possibly be high fashion. What do I know about fashion, though?

Under For-the-home, there should be something useful here, but no, its a
bunch of crapware.

Must be something under Gadgets - oh yeah, iPod stands, iPod protectors,
and wow - a 3-axis gimbal for a GoPro -- i could use something like that as
a gravity stabilised camera mount on my kite. Keep flipping through a few
more pages, and its mostly crapware and iPod stands/protectors. Protecting
your iPod seems to be a theme here.

They have a section for Games, dice, models, puzzles and assorted crapware.

So, in summary, the most compelling thing for me is the 3-axis gimbaled
camera mount. Its not exactly what I need, but it has inspired me to take a
look at what would be required to make what I want, and I think I can make
what I want with a 3d printer. Hmm, I really need some rotary damped
bearings, which would be difficult to print, but easy enough to order and

More information about the FoRK mailing list