What do you think of when you hear the term “science fiction?” Perhaps you’ve seen a science fiction or fantasy film before and you can recall some of their technology that seemed too far-fetched, like some sort of all-purpose fabricator that can create anything you request. I know that seems ridiculous, impossible even, but what if I told you that within a few years we’ll have the first generation, 3D printers. Well, welcome to the future, because this year the first wave of consumer 3D printers were unveiled at multiple tech and trade shows, such as SXSW in Austin, Texas.
The 3D printer has the capabilities to radically change our global society, on an almost fundamental level. The company RepRap has heralded the 3D printer as a revolutionary, technological innovation with near limitless capabilities and uses for every person of every facet of society. Imagine what these printers could bring to struggling and developing countries, from cheap, affordable tools, to parts and equipment for basic societal foundations (ex. irrigation systems). New models and designs for components and other objects can even be acquired online, allowing for the formation of global standards for tools, technology, and a plethora of other objects and components.
It’s important to note that 3D printers could also have more nefarious uses. 3D printers allow for the fabrication of firearms, granting any owner of a printer the ability to create nearly any firearm they desire, assuming they have the proper equipment. While the firearm that will be produced will be malleable and of a much lower quality than the traditionally-produced weapons, this does heighten the tensions regarding the recent debates in gun control. Once printers and other similar devices proliferate around our country and abroad, one could anticipate sweeping gun control regulation and reform.
Regardless of each person’s respective views regarding gun control and its subsequent policy debates, there are many obvious benefits to the ability to print objects. Communication technology played a major hand in spurring on rapid globalization and the advent of 3D manufacture will only allow for our global community to thrive and grow together. The future is here.