As any Trekkie will explain, when Captain Jean-Luc Picard stands in front of a small hole in the Starship Enterprise’s wall and says, “Earl Grey, hot,” he is ordering his tea from a replicator. Within seconds, a glass and metal mug with steaming liquid appears, seemingly out of thin air. We have been taught to assume that the on-board computer has created the glass, metal and tea by reassembling molecules in just the right way to produce the requested refreshment.
Rewind from the 24th to the 21st century. Last week, at the 3D Printing Conference in New York City’s Javits Center, Daniel and I saw what is often described as the beginning of replicators. Primitive, true, but all technology has to start somewhere. Back in the 1980s, filmless cameras were overpriced and clunky, with lousy image quality. In fact, they weren’t even digital; instead, they were analog devices that required too much computer processing to turn into blurry snapshots. Now everyone has a digital camera in their pocket, as part of their “universal” communicator (i.e. smartphone).
3D printing has been around for a few years now, though it’s lived primarily in the realm of laboratories, industry and very well-financed engineering/design workshops. Essentially, it has Read More