Tom Wujec, Fellow at AutoDesk, spoke at the Thinking Digital event earlier this year. In a video of his fascinating talk, Tom speaks of the nature of emerging technologies, specifically tech evolution and tech possibilities.
He describes a special moment in the evolution of technology where the previously "impossible", suddenly becomes possible. This is the "sweet spot" where investment recognizes the opportunity and companies actually bring the concept to life. However, he says, timing is always critical. A product too early may fail, even if it's a great idea (Newton? Google Wave?)
He reviews several key technology concepts, including Computation, Analog to Digital, Digital to Analog, User Interaction/Augmented Reality, Mobile and Bioinformatics, most of which focus on the notion of a digital representation of actual objects. The one most interesting to us is Digital to Analog, where digital models are transformed into physical objects.
He describes a class of objects that are not producible by any other means, including an "insane" model made by one of his clients: a running shoe made from four different materials, including rubber, cloth, etc. The really interesting part was derived from a spiderweb inspiration: an intricate series of thin strands wove over the shoe. Evidently this was printed by a complex six-axis device that extruded the strands and then carefully tied the strings together in 3D!
Tom believes this type of technology could transform the shoe (and other) industries into a manufacturing-by-one model. For example, scan your feet, then select a design and await the printout. However, the shoe lasts "only about ten minutes" as it's made of very fragile stuff.
He also describes a concrete printer able to print buildings and bioprinters, capable of printing various replacement body parts. We've written of these concepts before many times, but it's still quite amazing to think about.
is 3D printing ahead of its time? What happens next?
Via Thinking Digital (Hat tip to Andy)