So you know the FLDSMDFR from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs? That beautiful food-materializing machine that, much like communism, just didn’t work as well in reality as it did on paper? Yeah, me too. Well, the FLDSMDFR is just one of countless machines that we have conceptualized to make our lives more convenient. Nearly everything our species produces, we produce to make our lives easier — with the obvious exception of Daylight Savings Time.
Now, I could drone on and on about smartphones and air travel and robots that do our chores for us, but that’s not half as interesting as a machine whose whole purpose is to manifest objects of any shape and perfect construction at the touch of a button! If you haven’t guessed already, I am talking about 3D printing.
First, a quick shout out to @GeekFilter for their reply to my first tweet on this subject! Thanks for getting involved in the conversation! I posed the question, “Did Star Trek predict 3D printing with the replicator?” And @GeekFilter replied oh, so elegantly, “3D printing refers to automated deposition & molding of layers to a predetermined shape, different from instantaneous materialization.” I then found the same argument, basically word for word, here. So perhaps the answer is no. But the idea is the same: We put forth enormous effort, spending decades developing complex tools, all to ensure that we no longer have to put forth effort! I was wondering when 3D printing was first conceptualized in science fiction when @GeekFilter followed up with this:
Did you catch the part where it said 1947? We’re nowhere near advanced or creepy enough to print living creatures — or dead ones, for that matter. But the first 3D printer was invented by Charles Hull in 1986, a full 39 years after that passage was written. Props to Eric Russell! It produced prototype objects by a process called stereolithography. I seriously recommend you click on that word and watch the video on how it works. It’s short, and it’s beyond cool technology.
Nowadays, 3D printing isn’t restricted to producing prototypes and scale models! Carbon, a leading 3D printing company has developed a printer that is capable of printing final-quality objects — including working joints and other moving parts — ready for shipping to customers! What does that mean? Well, companies often manufacture thousands of extra product units, since there is no way of predicting exactly how many orders they will receive. Sometimes, companies overestimate and spend much more money than they have to making tons of extra units that are never bought! But companies who can afford the Carbon M1 printer can simply print out a product unit for every order they receive! This makes for a cheaper, faster process with no loss in quality and a more comparable product-count to order ratio! Not that the printer is cheap, but it’s worth it if you can afford it!
So what does our tendency to dream up things to make life easier say about us as humans? Is it laziness? Is it innovation? Is it a source of pride in our intelligence? Or could it be a fix for our insatiable need to solve puzzles, to discover? I tend to favor the latter explanation. We do not create out of laziness. That would be an oxymoron. By definition, creation is an action that requires intelligent design and intentional effort. We endeavor to create because we refuse to accept limitations. And so far, we’ve been right!
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