Slow Sculpture: Is 3D Printing Really Creating The Future?

A possible flying car? [Source: Fabbaloo]

It’s now almost 20% of the way through the 21st century and where are the flying cars?

There are no flying cars, and I’ve wanted one since I was a kid.

Flying Cars?

No flying cars, at least not yet, but there are people working on them. That is actually a big change.

For many years radical concepts that appeared only in science fiction were just that: fantasies. Things are a little different, as today we see various companies working on products that only a few years ago would have been considered “fiction”.

Do we even notice this? It’s like getting a haircut. Unless you’re paying attention, the change in hair length is so gradual you become used to whatever the current state is. Eventually, on haircut day, you are faced with the fact that something has changed.


I think that is much like the state of radical technology in this century: things are actually changing, but they are happening slow enough that people don’t notice so much.

Further, I think 3D printing has a lot to do with this.

Aerospace 3D Printing

Consider the case of the aerospace industry, which, after several years of experimentation, has finally latched on firmly to the concept of 3D printing.

There are now many 3D printed parts in aircraft, and I am quite certain that aircraft designers are busily inventing even more.

Most of these new and previously impossible-to-make parts were enabled by 3D printing. But it’s been a very gradual introduction for them. Parts must be certified carefully and management convinced this is a safe and feasible path.

Someday we’ll notice that a huge percentage of aircraft parts are 3D printed.

The changes in that industry are obvious: lower-weight aircraft meansless fuel used, and consequently a better opportunity for competing on routes by lowering prices. At least that’s the theory, as airline ticket prices are governed by many factors, seemingly understandable only by machine learning systems.

SpaceX 3D Printing

Space exploration is another industry significantly affected by 3D printing.

Some of SpaceX’s rocket engines are 3D printed, and they may help power revolutionary new rocket capabilities that could literally open up the solar system for humanity.

We just haven’t seen the “ocean liners” sail yet. But they’re being worked on.


, Slow Sculpture: Is 3D Printing Really Creating The Future? Gravity Industries demonstrating a flying jetpack [Source: Fabbaloo]

I witnessed a jetpack demonstration by Gravity Industries, who have built an incredible wearable that can make you fly in the air. Their parts again have been largely 3D printed in metal by EOS equipment. While Gravity Industries doesn’t quite make a flying car, the jetpack is pretty close and at least as cool.

Real Flying Cars

Back to flying cars.

Yes, there are quite a number of companies exploring the idea of flying cars, as there seems to be a convergence of technologies that is enabling their manufacture, including advanced software control, sensors and 3D printing. Airbus, Uber and many smaller companies seek to create new markets for flying cars that would address new types of transportation needs.

I think that 3D printing is actually helping create that vision of the 21st century we all had. It’s just taking a bit longer and is harder to notice.

I may finally get my flying car after all. I just need to be patient.


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