Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Future's So Bright, I Got To Wear 3D Printed Shades

A revolution will soon be upon us. Guns and bombs and gas won't be used--at first.

It is sneaking up on us. It's not quite here, yet all the basic elements exist. With a little tweaking and some advances here and there, the technology will be in place. I would say less than ten years and, perhaps, much sooner than that. Events are accelerating, artificially compressing time. Okay, you're saying it to yourself anyway - shit happens faster now.

There is a segment of society that will benefit more than other segments, and it does not necessarily involve the wealthy. The creative, adventurous elements of our society will be driving this change; and there are two technological fronts precipitating this revolution--robotics and 3D printing. Using these two things, an individual can make products of his imagination real. The 3D printer will be his parts source and the robot will be his assembly line.

Courtesy of Steve Jurvetson. Some rights reserved.
Baxter the Robot

The robot that can do it, Baxter, is already on the market. You can teach it yourself by showing it what to do, and it won't accidentally kill you. The catch is the price tag, about $25,000.00.  The 3D printer has a ways to go, too. Speed has to go up, cost has to come down from the multi-thousand dollar range.  Printing in metal (yes, it can be done) also has to step in with a consumer product, but the technology exists. When the price of these machines reaches a point at which the average individual might say, "Hey, I can buy one of those!" then Katy bar the door. Except that won't do any good. The Ring of Power is here to open it. The combination of the do-anything robot and 3D printer will be a volatile mixture that creates a blast of grass roots creativity and manufacturing. You'll have mom & pop businesses selling customized one-offs, competing with companies in big boy pants. After the initial investment, it will allow creative individuals to pump out a different product a week for the cost of some plastic and electricity and design time.

MakerBot II

In the old days, if you had an idea for a product, it would involve several plastic molds at $10,000 apiece. A minimum production run of several thousand pieces and a patent to protect it. A hundred thousand to a quarter million dollars might be involved to find out if a product is a winner.

You now have the option of protecting your idea for a year with a U.S. provisional patent for $130; long enough to find out if you need to spend more if it's a hit. That would be in addition to the plastic and electricity mentioned above and some marketing costs.

Now back to the guns and bombs and gas. China's business model will be doomed, as well as every other country's business model dependent on low wage workers to pump the treadles of their engines of wealth. Free societies with large middle class and good education systems will benefit the most. How this will change the world order, who knows. But it could eventually involve conflict as large segments of huge societies are laid off because of the competition of millions of mini-manufacturing facilities all over the world. Their economic advantage will be short-circuited, and there could some ill will involved on their part.

What would you make if you had a 3D printer and a robot to put together the parts?

I don't know about you, but I would seriously think about making 3D printers and robots.


Glen Hendrix
author Transmat World

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