We all likely have realized by now that the rate of technological progress increases over time. For example, we will likely see as much progress in the next decade as we have in the last 30 years combined. This accelerating rate of development in technology ultimately will equate to a world alien to most of us, likely within many of our lifetimes.
There are few areas, if any, in which technology is developing faster than that of the 3D printing space. In the last several years alone we have gone from a society in which nearly no one had heard of the phrase ‘3D printing’ to one where it’s almost impossible to go a couple of days without hearing about it in one form or another.
So you may now be wondering just how quickly 3D printing will develop over the next few decades. Will we be 3D printing organs for transplantation? How about 3D printing street legal cars or even airplanes? How about entire living organisms? Okay, wait, what did I just say?
That’s right, one day, in the not too distant future we may be 3D printing entire living organisms, even entire human being. At least this may be the case if you ask the Chief Creative Officer of 3D Systems, who’s also one of the more recognizable entertainers of our time: will.i.am.
Yesterday will.i.am was on hand at Harrods in London to unveil his new line of EKOCYCLE merchandise, which includes items that will hopefully make consumers aware of the fact that waste can be a valuable resource in the creation of desirable lifestyle products. The EKOCYCLE line of products includes clothing and other accessories which are produced by recycled waste, in addition to the EKOCYCLE Cube 3D printer that can print with filament made with recycled plastics. At the event will.i.am was kind enough to sit down with Dezeen and comment on where he thinks 3D printing technology may be headed. His thoughts may certainly surprise some of you.
When Dan Howarth from Dezeen asked him how 3D printing going to change, his response was as follows:
“I’m going to say something controversial. Eventually 3D-printing will print people. That’s scary. I’m not saying I agree with it, I’m just saying what’s fact based on plausible growth in technology and Moore’s law.
So right now we can print in post-consumer plastics, which is awesome. We can print in aluminium, which is bigger machines and awesome. We can print in titanium, which is pretty freaking crazy and amazing. We can print in steel, which is freaking hardcore. You can print in chocolate, and that’s sweet. You can print in freaking protein, you can make freaking meat. You can print leather. You can print a liver.
So if you can print a liver or a kidney. God dang it, you’re going to be able to print a whole freaking person. And that’s scary. That’s when it’s like, whah! And I’m not saying I agree, but plausible growth would say that with multiple machines that print in different materials, you could print in protein an aluminium combo.”
Howarth then followed up, asking how far away from such capabilities are we? Will.i.am replied, “Our lifetime.”
So could we see entire humans being 3D printed within the next few decades? I think it’s possible. There are a few main obstacles we will certainly have to overcome. Within the next decade or two, nearly every human body part will be printable via bio-ink. The most important part of the human body, however — the brain — is going to be orders of magnitude more difficult because of its intricate web of synapses and neurotransmitters. The other inhibiting factor will be governments and religious groups, who may block progress on moral grounds.
It’s certainly an interesting time to be alive, as things our ancestors or even we could never have imagined will become a reality. There is no doubt that 3D printing will play a major role in our future, just how major is the only question.
Do you agree with will.i.am that 3D printers will be capable of fabricating entire human beings within our lifetime? Let’s hear your thoughts in the 3D Printing Humans forum thread on 3DPB.com.
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