If 3D printing advances as fast as 2D printing advanced, we'll be working with our own Replicators from Star Trek by the year 2080. It took just 40 years for the original printing press to turn over from the single Gutenberg press to get to a mass production scale across Europe, and much, much less time for computers to advance from massive machines to teeny-tiny chips. With advances like home-bound do it yourself printers and the fact that pirate sites across the web are now sharing model files so that you might print your own objects at home without effort, we've not got much time at all before advances are made to the tune of Earl Gray, Hot.
The first 3D printers could be considered rapid prototype machines which started to be widely available in the late 1980s. They started to work on a real level much earlier than that. Take the short time it's been between the massive computers popping up in the last 100 years, inside our lifetimes, and the ultra tiny world of nanoprocessors today and you can see that we're developing now at an absolutely explosive, exponential rate.
One article last week by Christopher Mims on Why 3D Printing Will Go the Way of Virtual Reality you'll find that his view shows a less optimistic vision for the 3D printing world. While the technology today allows for plastics to be molded to our specifications in little to no time at all, it's a long push to materials that otherwise need massive heat, time, effort, and other fine features to get the ball rolling. The big mind-over-matter thought comes from Tim Maly then of Quite Babylon who notes the time it's taken to get from the press to the home press. It all seems reasonable to me.
So what do you think, home citizens? Do you think we'll be printing up everything from toys to food to our own computers and back again soon? Or is it all in our imagination?
[Image via Wil Wheaton]