3D printing was recognized as something fairly revolutionary when it was first embraced by the art world nearly 10 years ago. Since then 3D printers have been scaled down, and become increasingly affordable for the everyday consumer. Already more and more private individuals develop designs for practical and decorative objects and make them available for free on the internet. As the capabilities of these machines become more sophisticated and the types of goods that they can produce diversify they’ll begin to make an ever larger impact on our world. Here is the future we can look forward to and work to bring about with the help of this new technology.
What if we could convince the entire developed world to recycle plastic? The Filabot is a machine that eats waste plastic and spits out ready-to-use spools of 3D printing materials. Just chop up your old coke bottles, broken plastic cups, disposable silverware, and even some old polyester clothing, feed it into your filabot, and use the material that you get out of it to build something new. Even better, simply use it to remake the broken old stuff that you just melted down. So far printing fabrics isn’t something a 3D printer could handle, but it’s not unthinkable that something similar will hit the market in the next decade or two. Simpler items like dishes or utensils can easily be printed out.
As 3D printing becomes more prolific we can expect to see a lot more jobs in the technology sector. Take a look at tech salaries in the US and you’ll see that the future lies in software development. That, combined with engineering and design will probably become the new most sought after jobs, both for employment in major corporations that will be scrambling to create a supply of marketable designs, and private individuals working on their own, basically mirroring what happened with the rise of app development and smartphones.
Along with the new ability to produce a lot of goods in the comfort of your own home the entire supply chain that used to provide those goods is bound to shrink or collapse. Items that used to require labor to produce, market, ship, and sell, will require nothing but some slag out of your waste plastics and a design that you bought from the internet. This improves efficiency and drives the cost of those goods down.
The “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” is an area about twice as large as the state of Texas, located in the northern hemisphere in the Pacific Ocean. It’s composed almost entirely of plastic waste from North America, China, Japan, and Australia. Currently crude oil is still plentiful, but with a new focus on recycling, a massive demand for plastics, and a lot of logistics related workers looking for employment we might see a new industry pop up: Ocean Plastic Harvesting. It already exists in the form of relatively small scale gathering operations that are doing it for environmental reasons. The new demand for used plastics could turn plastic harvesting into a profitable enterprise, meaning that our oceans would go from being the filthy toxic garbage dumps, to squeaky clean in relatively short order.
Already Oxford is using 3D printing methods to build functional synthetic tissue that can be used to relay nerve signals and conduct liquids. Others talk about printing entire functional human organs (or the collagen understructure upon which stem cells can be seeded to grow a functioning organ). Assuming these methods hit mainstream medicine it could result in cheap organ transplants, improved healing for damaged nerves and other tissues, new burn treatments, and eventually perhaps even functional limb replacements.
Reyna Ramli is a writer for CareerBliss, an online community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. When Reyna is not writing, she scours fashion magazines and blogs to satisfy her crave of fashion tips and trends, or takes random pictures with her iPhone for her Instagram obsession.