Futurist Brenda Cooper writes of a revelation she recently had when discussing the current state of 3D print tech. She was shocked to see how fast things are evolving with the technology – “I found myself dreaming of 3D printers for a few days. After all, I could already buy one.”
She correctly points out that most people simply don’t realize what’s going on in this space; 3D printers are here, they are very capable now and are very rapidly gaining the ability to produce a lot more things in the future. If anything, the entrepreneurs of the world haven’t yet caught on to the possibilities by creating entirely new businesses.
Cooper describes a few scenarios for the future:
It’s 2017. I go in to the hairdresser to get dolled up for a night out. I bring a sample of the pale blue color of the dress I’m going to print for tonight and one of the taupe shoes I’ve already made this morning. The hairdresser uses a hand-held machine to scan my samples and my scalp, and then she sends a patented design for a hair band only available through her salon to the 3D printer in the back. Twenty minutes later, just as she’s finishing with her blow dryer, one of her assistants brings the hair band, which fits and looks perfect. After my night out, the hair band, shoes, and dress all go into the recycler to be sorted into raw material for my wardrobe the next night out.
It’s 2019. I destroy the bones in my right hand in a bicycling accident. The doctor already has a 3D image of me, and she prints new bones and in a single surgery, she attaches muscles and ligaments and sends me on my way. I’m not quite as good as new, but it’s a close thing, and if I’d done this to myself ten years earlier I’d be in for seven surgeries instead of one, and my hand would never have had more than half its old functionality. Now, I often forget I shattered my hand for days at a time.
It’s 2022. I’m ready to buy a new house. I sit down with the builder/architect and we talk through the particulars of everything from the height of the kitchen counters to the way I want the drapes to look. We also discuss materials for walls, and protective coatings for the exterior. If I’m pretty well-off, I may also buy swarms of bots to maintain the outside of the house in perfect condition. I may be able to “paint” it with a programmable surface. But those are different technologies…
We completely agree that those scenarios could indeed actually happen. But we disagree on the dates. We think they can happen earlier. In fact, the bicycling-bones-build could almost happen today, if you happened to have a prior scan.