TBD on Ning

Normally, I'm a hard science guy with little thought to the technology side, but here's a futuristic sounding technology that appears to be a "game changer".  And it's already here in a primitive stage.  Imagine being able to create in your own home most of the stuff you would buy at a store like a Walmart.  It's called 3-D printing, or more formally additive manufacturing. And home units are available right now.  I think I saw this stuff on the Jetsons.


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Oh yeah! I've been watch this new technology evolve for a couple of years now. It is fascinating. 

Here is a video that takes a lighthearted look at good and dark sides of this technology. :-)

The video shows a scanner as the input device for the unit being demonstrated, but printers also come with a CAD program that allows anyone (who has the skill to use it) to design the part from scratch.  This allows more flexibility with regard to complexity, even some internal parts I would imagine.  Also more expensive industrial and research printers work with a lot more different matererials than just plastic resin.

In principal most any material can be used, although I wonder if the printed materials would have the appropriate properties, such as hardness, tensile strength. etc. to function as intended.  Some materials need to be heat treated, etc. to attain the correct properties. Maybe you could print a gun, or at least the parts of a gun and then assemble it, but would it explode when fired?  Could you print the ammo?

I find the suggestion that you might use a 3-D printer to make another 3-D printer the most provocative concept in the entire piece.  Is this a step towarad realizing a self-reproducing Von Neumann machine? Would some people want to consider such a device a new life form?

From entry on technology from Wikipedia:

Science, engineering and technology

"The distinction between science, engineering and technology is not always clear. Science is the reasoned investigation or study of phenomena, aimed at discovering enduring principles among elements of the phenomenal world by employing formal techniques such as the scientific method.Technologies are not usually exclusively products of science, because they have to satisfy requirements such as utility, usability and safety."

Engineering is the goal-oriented process of designing and making tools and systems to exploit natural phenomena for practical human means, often (but not always) using results and techniques from science. The development of technology may draw upon many fields of knowledge, including scientific, engineering, mathematical, linguistic, and historical knowledge, to achieve some practical result."

"Technology is often a consequence of science and engineering — although technology as a human activity precedes the two fields. For example, science might study the flow of electrons in electrical conductors, by using already-existing tools and knowledge. This new-found knowledge may then be used by engineers to create new tools and machines, such as semiconductors, computers, and other forms of advanced technology. In this sense, scientists and engineers may both be considered technologists; the three fields are often considered as one for the purposes of research and reference."

"The exact relations between science and technology in particular have been debated by scientists, historians, and policymakers in the late 20th century, in part because the debate can inform the funding of basic and applied science. In the immediate wake of World War II, for example, in the United States it was widely considered that technology was simply "applied science" and that to fund basic science was to reap technological results in due time. An articulation of this philosophy could be found explicitly in Vannevar Bush's treatise on postwar science policy, Science—The Endless Frontier: "New products, new industries, and more jobs require continuous additions to knowledge of the laws of nature ... This essential new knowledge can be obtained only through basic scientific research." In the late-1960s, however, this view came under direct attack, leading towards initiatives to fund science for specific tasks (initiatives resisted by the scientific community). The issue remains contentious—though most analysts resist the model that technology simply is a result of scientific research."

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That may not be the best explanation of the difference between science and technology, but it will do. :-)

Let me try.  I was not trying to imply that technology is not included in science, but that the technology side of science usually fails to generate a special interest for me.  I wish that it was otherwise.  I'm the type of person who would sit around and ponder the philosophical implications of quantum uncertainty while someone else gets the patent for the transistor. I was arbitrarily dividing science into pure and applied categories where pure science is about research on the way things are and the rules that apply to them and applied science is about using that knowledge to enhance our lives.  For example, I am far more interested in how the decay patterns of the Bs meson impact supersymmetry than the immense challenges involved in building the LHC at CERN where such research is done.

I can appreciate your feelings on this, because I'm the exact opposite. I marvel at some of the technology developed from scientific research, but I maintain a cautious eye on some technology that is under development, such as AI (artificial intelligence). I will never be be called a "Luddite", but I do believe in a reasoned and sane approach to technology. Don't build it just because we can. :-)

Considering the direction that this thread has gone, I find it interesting that Science News has printed a letter to the editor that addresses the pure science vs. applied science distinction based on this very topic, 3-D printing. 

A reader writes: "The 3-D printer has unpredictably powerful potential. But the device is an advance in technology, not science. What contribution by this machine to our knowledge of the universe warrants its coverage by Science News?"

See the magazine's response at http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/349398/description/Lette...

The potential impact of 3-D printing on the fashion industry: Anyone can be their own designer in their own home.  Experimental fashions can be created in small quantities.


I want one but the cost will be about 400,000.00 for it...LOL

It seems a 3D-printed gun has been made and tested.  And for a short while the plans to make it were on the internet - 100,000 plus downloads.  It requires a $8,000 printer, but clearly the price of these items is going to come down as the technology becomes more widespread.


Yeah, Just like today's printers. Cheap, but the price of the ink could bankrupt you. I assume the cost of printing materials will be incredibly high also. :-)

It took a while for me to find out about the gun.  Apparently it is all plastic except for the firing pin which is a metal nail.  A plastic gun is a long way from being an Uzi but it is not a toy and I am sure it can still be leathal.  Besides if it can be done in plastic, I'm sure it can be done in other materials as well.  3D printers have been developed for many materials including metals, composites and even biological materials like food (think Jetson's) or living tissues, although most of us won't be building spare organs for transplant in the home.

I agree that in the long run, the cost of materials will probably be the limiting factor, like the cost of ink is now.

Now they have used this technology to build an artificial air-way splint to keep a baby alive.





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