5 uses for 3D printing in the near future

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It’s nearly 2014 and in lieu of drones and jetpacks, there’s another technology that has been perennially “only a few years away” that does actually appear to be getting somewhere. Over the last year 3D printers have come along leaps and bounds. So are they ready for the big time? Here’s five things 3D printers could be used for in the near future.

Making Records

According to Digital Trends, the lead singer of Bloc Party has been kicking it old school, as they say. Kele Okereke is putting out a new record that will be sold specially in London this weekend as… well, a record. But rather than travel back in time to the factories that made vinyls, he’s 3D printing them using a new 3D printing technique, which can produce better/more detailed prints than normal printers. Apparently due to the way the production produces deeper grooves (that’s a comment on the physicality of the record, not the grooviness of the tune), it’ll only work in mono at the moment – but you have to start somewhere, right?

Inexplicably this is all sponsored by Bacardi, of trashy drink with a poor reputation fame – so you can watch a video with the software engineer behind the clever stuff here:

Printing Happy Meal Toys

Whilst still firmly at the “speculative idea” phase, McDonalds’ IT director Mark Fabes recently Told The Register that 3D printers could be used to print happy meal toys – ending once and forall the familial dischord as kids fight over who gets which toy. It seems like a match made in heaven – cheap plastic produced on demand, not just as your meal but the toy as well.

The video below unfortunately doesn’t have anything to do with 3D printers, but it is an enjoyable opportunity to watch the famous “Nah, y’alright” advert which has given the world the catchphrase it really should get around to adopting.

3D Printers… in space?!

Though Commander Hadfield made it feel so close, the International Space Station is very difficult to get to – so if the astronauts on board need a spare part, it’s not something they can just get an Amazon Prime delivery on. To remedy this NASA are planning to send a 3D printer up to the station – which means next time they need an inanimate carbon rod, they’ll be able to get one sharpish.

Lego to K’Nex Adapters

As Wired Magazine reported back in March, some clever people have come up with perhaps the one thing our childhoods were missing: adapters to link up different construction toys. The Free Universal Construction Kit apparently provides a set of 82 adapters, which can be 3D printed to connect Lego to K’Nex, Duplo to Stickle Bricks… and every other combination in between. Perfect.

Making Guns

Finally, if all of the above uses for 3D printers are too nice, and are making the world too much of a better place, then you’ll like this usage. Some awful person in America has come up with the idea of 3D printing guns – as if the world doesn’t have enough problems.

Whilst it’s still early days, I imagine sword-wielding knights used to laugh at early guns too. And it only took a few years before they became super sophisticated. The leading gun makers, Defense Distributors are a non-profit – their plan is to come up with the blueprints that can be fed into a 3D printer – and to prevent anyone from foiling their dastardly plan, they’re making it all open source and available on the internet… so that eventually anyone with a 3D printer will be able to make a gun, without having to get a license, or register it or anything like that. Presumably this will mark the point when we finally descend into Mad Max-style dystopia.

Check out this documentary made by Vice magazine, who followed Cody Wilson, CEO of Defense Distributed around a while back – and good luck feeling hopeful for the future.

James O’Malley
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