“The latest tech” in 3D printing is pretty cool and it’s astonishing what we can do right now. Well, guess what? It’s going to get better and better until suddenly it will change the world into something most people won’t expect, recognize, or be able to predict. Join us as we look at How 3D Printing Will Change the World!
The 3D printer will create a post-scarcity society without “needs”. People will be able to print food, housing, art, or whatever strikes their imagination. Post-scarcity, or “having it all”, will reach every corner of the Earth. A 3D printer can print anything; if your neighbor lacks one, you can print a 3D printer for them. Over time the role of government will diminish to simply supplying 3D printer stock materials and infrastructure. When countries can fulfill all their needs from within, there is no need to invade another country to steal their resources.
10. The TLDR Of How It Works
There are two basic types of 3D printers used by most hobbyists, the FDM, for Fused Deposition Modeling, and the SLA, standing for Stereolithography Apparatus. SLA is the oldest technology, invented in the 1980s, but is only now becoming a “must-have” for makers. Both make objects layer-by-layer, FDM from the top-down, and SLA from the bottom-up. SLA printers use ultraviolet laser light from beneath a resin-filled tank with a transparent bottom to photocatalyst resin and create a solid. The build-plate lifts as each nearly-imperceptible layer are made. FDM printers, on the other hand, deposit a tiny layer with each pass, physically moving the printhead in up to three dimensions. Some more advanced models can change colors on the fly or even materials. This will make it possible to build much more complex items as the technology improves. Though not as precise as SLA, FDM is excellent for fast prototyping of experimental parts to see if a particular shape will solve a specific problem. Increasing precision, and the ability to change materials, will probably make FDM much more useful for creating everyday objects. You undoubtedly will need hundreds of different materials to print a cellphone, but perhaps only a few to print a chair.
9. The Print Shop
Not everyone will have a 3D printer right away—it took nearly a decade from 1970 to 1980 before every kitchen seemed to have a microwave oven. Right now you can order something online and it will be created and shipped to you. Companies like Adidas are already selling bespoke footwear. One forward-looking designer, Danit Peleg, is making clothing you can print yourself. She envisions a day when you print clothes in your hotel room from a built-in machine instead of carrying luggage. In the meanwhile, as we transition, local shops will probably spring up to print things for you, turning it into a business based on time and materials. You’ll decide on a lamp that you like, have the “Physible” (the mathematical blueprints which allow a 3D printer to understand and build an object) sent to a local printer, and pick it up the next day. Some may specialize in metals or ceramics; others in crafted food, or objets d’art. Competition between traditional manufacturing and this new form will be fierce, but there is every reason to suspect that eliminating many costs, such as warehousing, transportation & fuel, and pollution will provide strong arguments for the new technique.
8. Printable Food
Back in 2013, we created 100% synthetic meat, aside from a couple of painlessly obtained starter cells to begin the process. It cost $300,000 to print the first hamburger patty. In 2016, Food Ink, the first 3D-printed food restaurant, opened a pop-up location in the U.K., with sittings for about $330 per person. Not only did they print the food, but they also printed the chairs, plates, and cutlery. Nowadays, there are high-end restaurants that sell 3D printed duck and fish that are almost indistinguishable from the “real thing”. Desserts made of delicate lattices of 3D-printed sugar or chocolate are deemed cutting-edge. The 3D printer will be able to print entire meals, as “cooked” and merely in need of heating, or raw so you can prepare it yourself.
7. Printable Housing
We’re already building housing with 3D printers, either with virgin concrete or in a more environmentally-responsive way, with recycled/reused materials. The WinSun Company in China kicked it off in 2014 by printing 10 single-story houses in one day. Not to be outdone, you can now buy a complete 1,900-square-foot home in the U.S. for under $300,000 from approved manufacturers.
6. Printable Objects
We don’t yet have the precision necessary to print a CPU for your computer, but printing primitive CPUs will eventually happen. Mixed media printing will make almost anything printable. If you’ve ever had the experience of trying to track down parts for some obscure product or even one that is simply no longer manufactured, then you will appreciate the future where the specs for parts are available online and you will be able to print that missing part. Yes, there are practical limitations (for now) such as that you can’t print a bottle of carbonated soda-pop, even though we can print in glass or metal already. Some things may always require post-printing processing. For instance, we’ve already used 3D modeling on the international space station to make tools from a base stock of recyclable material. Here, astronaut Butch Wilmore displays a ratchet he printed. The material can then be ground back into powder and used to make another tool. This saves a tremendous amount of energy and money since it costs an estimated $10,000 per kilogram to send something into space.
5. Printable Organs
Since we can 3D print with cells, we can print with human cells, too. Burn victims can now have skin grafts made in just a few hours from their cells. Frostbite victims with missing noses or ears can now get a replacement made from their cells. Need a kidney replacement but have no compatible donor? Even if you find one, you’ll need to be on antirejection drugs for the rest of your life. The practical upshot of this is that there would be absolutely no chance of rejection since it is all perfectly natural “you”. We have already 3D printed simple organs like bladders that don’t have many technical requirements, but back in 2019 we grew tiny human hearts (about the size of a silver dollar) for research and learning, as well as to test the effect of drugs. It takes a few weeks for the cells to mature and learn to beat synchronously, but scientists and researchers are looking forward to testing them in animal models, and eventually humans.
4. China’s Manufacturing Dominance
China is thriving on the international stage as a provider of bulk, low-cost goods. Selling billions of items internationally floods their economy with capital. That will undoubtedly change as the economy shifts to people printing bespoke items at home that fit them precisely or match their aesthetic. Additionally, 3D printing eliminates the weeks or months for delivery of regular non-customized merchandise. Similarly, countries won’t need to buy as many finished goods internationally because they can meet their own needs internally with 3D printing. Since high-tech items like computer circuit boards will resist 3D printing for quite a while due to their complexity, that form of trade will continue for a while. Ultimately, raw materials will prevail as the most commonly traded items.
3. Vanishing, Jobs
So what happens when furniture can be printed at home? Does IKEA vanish forever? Probably not, but they will likely transition to selling their designs online as Physibles. Factories won’t need as many workers as manufacturing switches to home-based. Eventually, they’ll need none at all. Their workers may just be “designers” with a selection of fast-prototyping 3D manufacturing tools for quality assurance. Just about every other industry will be affected in the same way. Millions of daily purchases will vanish and jobs will cease to exist. What will happen to the unemployed millions? It’s possible we could be headed for a world where Universal Basic Income, or UBI, is commonplace.
2. Jobs Will Still Exist
Some jobs will always exist. People will always need a steady, reliable supply of material for their 3D printers. We also need people to manage infrastructure such as making sure we all have reliable electricity, clean water, waste treatment, and HVAC to heat and cool our homes. Much of this will be automated, to be sure, but even a sewer-cleaning robot needs an overseer to make decisions about unusual situations. The remaining jobs will tend towards art and the creation of unique products; it will manifest as personal service industries such as travel agents, physiotherapists, dentists, and doctors; and the most important of these jobs will be in resource collection and recycling. For the time being, human judgment is a commodity that is still irreplaceable.
1. The Do-Nothing Society?
Surprisingly to some, people still work, even when all their needs are met. Some millionaires play online games allowing other people to watch the game being played—for some, it’s a legitimate living; for others, it is now beyond mere money and is simply done for the appreciation from their followers. For many, science will become the new fascination. Furthering education, research, and discovery will be the way to create self-worth in society. Building space colonies with 3D printing to preserve humanity in the event of a global disaster might be the newest “best thing”. In many ways, we could imitate the most fundamental part of the Star Trek universe, with no real need for money.
We would contribute in the best way we could to advance humanity, just for the recognition. The 3D printer will create a post-scarcity society without “needs”. People will be able to print food, housing, art, or whatever strikes their imagination. Post-scarcity, or “having it all”, will reach every corner of the Earth. A 3D printer can print anything; if your neighbor lacks one, you can print a 3D printer for them!