« Rehearsing the Future | Main | Christian Science Monitor on the Ethics of Geoengineering »

The Future Feels a Little Bit Closer

3dPrint.jpgI write often enough about 3D printing systems and "desktop fabrication" that when something that I shouldn't be startled by just how fast this industry is advancing. And yet: the ZPrinter 450 looks just amazing. The promotional video is almost surreal -- and if somebody had sent it to me as an example of an "artifact from the future," I would have believed them. This is a giant, sparkly, screaming harbinger of what the next decade will hold.

It's not quite desktop fabbing just yet, but it's oh so very close: it's about a single order of magnitude off in price ($40K) and speed ("output models in hours, not days") from being consumer-friendly, and needs to be about half of its current size. That'll happen, probably by the end of this decade (if not sooner). With the "high-performance composite" polymers used as base stock, it looks like dumb objects would be pretty easy to make. The big leap in capability will happen when they can start printing out objects using truly complex polymers as core materials, particularly electroactive polymers (which can move) and organic-electronic polymers (which can compute).


My post yesterday got a bit of attention from what appeared to be a few people at that same research lab. Forget hours if they jump in.

Jamais, when I recently needed to have a filling replaced, I was told I needed what was basically a half-crown - they were drilling so close to the edge of the tooth that they needed a piece to replace the side and then cover the bottom of the tooth.

They took an image of the tooth, and then the dentist fooled around with it on the computer screen, refining the computer's guess to match the shape *he* wanted the piece to be. Then they input the information into another device that was right there in the office.

He went to work on my teeth. In about an hour, the dental assistant came over with the half-crown, which had been manufactured right there in the office. He applied it, I went home.

I felt like I had stepped into the future.


Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Powered By MovableType 4.37