Nine Printouts from Amber?
A few weeks ago I had the distinct pleasure of getting to hear Vonda N. McIntyre read her flash fiction story, “Misprint.” If you don’t want to take a minute to read it (though I suggest you do, it’s a lot of fun), it’s about a future where people can print copies of their favorite pets. The copies are perfect, as long as people are careful about the features they select.
I thought that future was still decades away, but after io9 articles this week about a working 3D-printable robot and a robotic 3D printer that doesn’t need oversight, I’m not so sure. 3D printing seems to be advancing at a fast rate. Pretty soon we’ll be able to print spare tires, clothes, light bulbs, artwork, food, even duct tape.
Think about that: a machine that makes duct tape on demand. Tell me that’s not one of the secrets of the universe. I wouldn’t be shocked if instant duct tape was one of the great mysteries of Egypt. Heck, maybe Atlantis sank because their 3D printers got stuck printing duct tape and the irresistible force met the immovable object.
Still, when I think about this future I can’t help but wonder – who the hell wants to store all that raw material?
No matter how efficient these printers get, they can’t make something out of nothing. You know, that whole pesky first law of thermodynamics. This means that if you want a twenty-pound tire, you need at least twenty pounds of raw material.
Mind you I love the idea of printing out remote-controlled X-Wings and TIE Interceptors and hosting a dogfight in my living room, but I don’t want to devote half of my garage to raw material just to support a printer.
Now, sure, we could work out a delivery system. Maybe drone flights will drop off daily shipments for us. I don’t care for that approach, though. Too much traffic and too much hassle.
No, I know what I want. I want a 3D de-compiler, a device that takes 3D printouts and uses their patterns to disassemble them back into raw material. I want to print out a bathrobe that looks like Dr. Strange’s cloak, then disassemble it before bed and re-print the same raw material as a trench coat on a cold winter morning. I want to print up extra chairs for a party without having to fill a closet with them after everyone leaves.
Now that future sounds like fun.
What do you most want to print out with your future 3D printer?