Digital fabrication will change the course of the future
The Austin Chronicle, 8 February 2013
That headline has been digitally duplicated (plagiarized) from David Bjerklie’s essay in Time‘s special edition: “100 New Scientific Discoveries.” Bjerklie’s headline says it all.
Three-dimensional manufacturing is the making of something out of practically nothing. This technology accelerates as we speak. Bjerklie reports that there is only one retail outlet that sells 3-D printers, MakerBot in New York City. Only one, but it had sold 15,000 3-D printers by late 2012.
Every new article on the subject reports something you never dreamed of. A week ago, I didn’t know that 3-D printers could make food.
Bjerklie writes of “a pork chop … produced by a bioprinter equipped with pig-cell ink that had been grown in vitro.” Scientists are working on “3-D printed meat” that “could lessen the environmental impact and ethical objections of raising meat the old-fashioned way.” The 3-D process would be lots cheaper than herding cows. The Great American Cowboy, or what’s left of him, may ride off into the sunset for keeps.
Like most writers on the subject, Bjerklie quotes a researcher’s warning. In this case, it’s Michael Idelchik, vice president for advanced technologies at GE Global Research. Idelchik cautions that 3-D printing “has the potential to fundamentally disrupt” all that we take for granted.
The real eye-opener is Professor Neil Gershenfeld’s lengthy essay in Foreign Affairs (Nov.-Dec. 2012). Professor Gershenfeld is not a journalist. He is a scientist, the leader of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Bits and Atoms. “Cutting edge” is a clichéd usage, but not in Gershenfeld’s case. His Center is the knife point of the cutting edge. He subtitles his essay: “The Digital Fabrication Revolution.”
Here’s the long and the short of it, in Gershenfeld’s words: “Digital fabrication will allow individuals to design and produce tangible objects on demand, wherever and whenever they need them.”