“Computer. Print me a steak: Well done.” This sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, but we are actually seeing the development of 3D printer technology capable of printing new and exciting things, even food!
In science fiction, a computer that automatically makes food was foreseen in Star Trek. Whenever Captain Picard says, “Tea, Earl Grey, Hot,” a device called a “replicator” re-sequences bio-matter out of usable material. Also known as a “protein re-sequencer,” this Star Trek technology can make virtually anything as long as the molecular structure is on file–except antimatter, dilithium, latinum, or living organisms (of course).
Obviously, our 3D printing capabilities have not reached this level of sophistication, but we are living in the beginning of the 21st century, and Star Trek: The Next Generation is a vision of a utopian future in the 24th century, which means we still have a ways to go before printing off something complex like a glass of Dr. Pepper with all 23 flavors.
Today, we are actually seeing the beginnings of the Star Trek “replicator” with our modern 3D printers. All you have to do is download a file of a desired object, and a 3D printer will use plastic, glass, metal, polymers, wax, or sand/glue mixtures to print off almost anything. People are finding new and exciting ways to use 3D printers to make things like toys, mechanical parts, guns, and much much more. There is even a man in New Zealand currently using a personal 3D printer to make his very own Aston Martin automobile, piece by piece!
If you’re not impressed with printing feats like this, then be prepared to have your mind blown because experimentation for 3D printing on a molecular level is now underway, opening the door to the 24th century by making it possible to print off things like food, and even human tissue! This technology will allow for us to one day print off needed body parts like new livers and kidneys.
3D printing has the potential to drastically change the way humans live and make everyday purchases. Instead of going to the store and buying something off the shelf that took an entire factor on the other side of the world to manufacture, you will instead be able to download a blueprint, hit “Print,” and then wham-o, there it is. If 3D printing becomes the norm, it can totally disrupt the way the world’s economy works, hopefully for the better, and take us one step closer to a Star Trek utopia with holodecks (this technology is also in development).
You can buy your own small 3D printer to print plastic objects for as little as $500. Commercial and industrial 3D printers are much more expensive and vary in size and functionality. While it may be too early to implement a 3D printer for your business, it’s still fun to dream about the possibilities of what you can print off and where human ingenuity will take our society.
How do you think 3D printing will change things? Do you think you will be able to explore space in a starship and eat resequenced food from a replicator in your lifetime? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!