Open Source 3D Printers

One of my favorite indulgences is to look at a piece of technology and imagine what it might be capable of in a decade. For example, the Generation 1 “1000 songs in your pocket” black and white iPod was released in October 2001.

Melaudic Applause iPod

A decade later (to the month, by the way), we met Siri on the iPhone 4S. Think about that for a moment. In 2001, a digital mp3 player was groundbreaking and forever changed the way music was listened to. A decade later, we have artificial intelligence in our pockets alongside 50,000 songs, books, movies, apps, and even a telephone too I’m told.

Now, another Generation 1 technology is beginning to flourish that has the capacity to forever alter our perception of the world. 3-dimensional printers. Best of all, their design is open-source. Open-source, as anyone not employed by the RIAA will tell you, is widely recognized as the single fastest way to advance development. In simple terms, there’s a lot less red tape and profiteering standing in the way because the creators freely give away their blueprints and designs so that other creators can then collectively gain knowledge to further create and share.

Separate teams in America and Belgium have already presented some amazing initial uses of these printers. Unfold, a Belgian collective from Antwerp, has transformed the art of pottery by creating a digital device that registers human interaction, allowing people to digitally mold clay into a desired form, which is then literally printed, in clay, before the viewer’s eyes.

On this side of the pond, a team at Cornell University has created the Fab@Home project. This team has devised a way to print edible food, and hopes to make food printers as ‘ubiquitous as the microwave’ with an eventual expected retail cost of only about $700. Imagine being able to craft a family recipe that your descendants can recreate exactly from the digital recipe you left to them, even hundreds of years later. Now imagine what this technology might look like in a decade.

It gives me goosebumps.

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