Game-Changing Technology: 3-D Printing

George Washington's picture

Washington’s Blog

3-D objects can now be "printed".

This includes tools:

Concrete building structures:

Prosthetic limbs:

And even organs:

(full episode here).

And watch this Ted talk, where Dr. Anthony Atala "prints" a kidney during his talk:

And this:

Cyborg, anyone?

If you have any doubt about the power of certain types of cells to grow tissue, watch this:

Note: 3-D printing may have the power to replace cheap Chinese manufacturing, to allow people to create their own products, and to revolutionize many other aspects of our lives.

Remember that metal objects can be printed (see this and this). So can silicone, glass (and see this), alumina-glass composites, and even food.

And many electronics components are already printed (see this). But as Utopia Crowd argues:

The advances in 3D printing of electronics ... will also speed up the development of customizable electronics modules.

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steve from virginia's picture

GW should stick to banker fraud.

I have an old Nikon camera. I defy any 'printing' tech to create a duplicate camera: glass, electronic circuit boards, several types of high-quality glass, about 25 different metals including titanium alloys, steel, bronze, etc.

This is like casting a duplicate camera out of plaster and painting the damned thing to look like a camera ... some one has to program the computer to 'print' the functioning compnents of a complex machine that already works to the limits of the film it uses.

One cannot forge something with a printer. Let GW 'print' a samurai sword. How about a .357 magnum. Would you fire it? Not a chance, it would blow up in your face.

A hammer cannot be printed. Wooden handle, you can print that, right? You can already buy a claw hammer made in China that you can break the claws off with your bare hands ..

The whole 3D printing idea is absolutely idiotic on its face, like little space dudes in 'Area 54'.

Best tech would be self- destructing TVs.

Slap That Taco's picture

I'd say that could replace at least 100,000 jobs.

Hooray for technology!  Long live the douchebags and their 3D printers!

A douche bag would be a cinch to print up, I bet.

AGuy's picture

The problems with 3-D printing:

1. Limited materials. Usually limited to thermal plastics and curing plastics. Not suitable for metal parts.

2. Very time consuming production. It takes a very long time to manufacture a part. A typical injection mold or extruded machines can crack out hundreds to thousands of parts in the time it takes a 3-D printer to crank out a single part.

3. 3-D printers and their  consumables are usually very expensive. high density, high strength epoxies are very expensive. Thermal plastics are fairly inexpensive, but are far cheap to operate in extruders or injection mold machines.



Slap That Taco's picture

The question is, are the materials cheaper than a human being?

Doesn't seem to take much......I mean who cares if the products are expensive and/or shitty?

It is much more important in the long run to fuck Americans out of jobs.

Dburn's picture

As someone who had a vested and intimate relationship with the design process of electronic products in the old days which also included the electronic design, mechanical design, manufacturing engineers, packaging, and all the other iterations that a product must go through dollar wise and time wise before allowing it to be tested  and reviewed much less advertised , I can tell you that this is indeed trans-formative technology.

I could go into detail, but there is no reason to as most won't read it. All I can say is I've seen these "printers" working up close and personal. It will single-handedly allow small start-ups to bootstrap their way up much like HP did many years ago.  It will be another decade before they truly make an impact ( or less) but anyone who disses them here should save their posts and look at them ten years from now...even if the financial world blows.

Slap That Taco's picture


  We can all celebrate the genius of it while we prepare french fries.

Cone of Uncertainty's picture

Jesus H. Fucking christ this is a lame ass post.

3D printing has been around since the late 80's, it is known as rapid prototyping, but don't worry, you're not that fucking far behind the times bro.

ATM's picture

When will government insert itself into this technological advance to protect us from cheaper manufacturing and less waste. My god, how can they allow precise products to be created for each use when the whole world order is buit upon the assembly line?

How will we employ the indebted masses in lives of servitude?? This is anarchy!

Slap That Taco's picture


  We will "employ" them in senseless wars. Can't you see the wall, never mind the writing?

statlawyer's picture

Don't tell Bernanke about this or he might start printing gold plated Tungsten bars.

Rhodin's picture

Why not gold filled American Eagles or Maples?  Should be possible.  Especially if "rare" dates or conditions in fake slabs.

hedgeless_horseman's picture

Game-Changing?  Sure, but this technology is 10 years old.  We purchased our first Objet rapid prototyping machine in 2002.  Today, this technology is in virtually every mom and pop design shop in China.

supermaxedout's picture

Yes this is fascinating stuff but the devil is always in the detail. A good idea or new technology is at the beginning always problematic. It often takes many many years till its grown-up and ready for the day-to-day use. It all depends on how much money and brain is put into the final development. This is the part where the hard work sits and where it costs the most money. And this is the problem of the US. As long as there is not a military use or advantage involved there will be no public funding in a big scale. Instead of funding the military big scale the US should fund such ideas and developments big scale.

But nobody must worry if the not the US is doing it others will do it instead. They will say thanks for the idea. We will see what we can make out of it. And they are right. Why should they wait for the US.

DeadFred's picture

My son has two of these creatures (plastic extruders) going in our house. The first one help create the second one. At this level they are slow and noisy but I can see a lot of potential uses. For example an auto mechanic working on an old car could scan a broken part, load some aluminum powder in the hopper and in an hour make the needed repair. The goal is to decentralize so that smaller communities can become self-sufficient and survive off the grid.

BigJim's picture

Thanks for reminding us of this, George... I remember looking into it (somewhat superficially) a few years ago, and thinking, hmm, this could really change things in a BIG way.

Richard Chesler's picture

i'm sure parasite banksters and their corrupt government stooges are really scared of this "game-changing". lol


GeoffreyT's picture

Snark aside, I think they ARE scared of this technology (or, more accurately, of its 5th-generation descendants).


Their psychotype means that they value the GAP between themselves and the masses - so much so that they will set an entire country on fire to prevent that gap from closing: they would rather have a larger share of a SHRINKING pie, than a rising absolute consumption basket. Algebraically, the ratio W[i,t]/W[ave,t] has a positive coefficient in their utility functionals over all values of the ratio (whereas for 'normal' humans, that coefficient adjusts dynamically: past some point of near-satiety in consumption, 'normal' humans exhibit diminishing marginal utility of relative wealth).


it's hard for we 'normal' humans to get our heads around, but that's the way it is in the brains of grasping vermin (which I refer to as 'homo cheneyensis', since Dick 'dick' Cheney is the pre-eminent American example of the species ... although homo Sarkozyensis fits too).

And this technology (and its lower-cost, more-productive future implemetnations) threatens to close the gap in profound ways.


I wrote a comment on nanodot back in about 1997, in which I made the case that the parasitic classes would try to stymie the growth of nanotech because it significantly undermines their power over others... and that's what they live for (for the most part they already have effectively-unbounded consumption choice sets).

LawsofPhysics's picture

Ah yes, the old rally cry that technology will save us all.  Bullshit, it saves a few and puts the rest out of work.  You really need to do some homework on global cycles, like nitrogen, carbon, sulfur, phosphate etc.  If there wasn't 7+ billion people on the planet AND technology did not require massive amounts of natural resources to implement, you may be right.

I have no doubt that technology will continue to save a chosen few while everyone else is disenfranchised to death.  For example, we now have numerous drugs and procedures that can correct numerous aliments, all of which will bankrupt Joe six pack overnight.  Fuck you and your eugenics programs.  Keep ignoring the real cost of technology fucknut.   Without like-minded neighbors you will most likely be eaten first anyway, so no matter.


Moreover, we had a 3D printer in 94, great for testing potential design flaws, but still a lame fucking post.

tarsubil's picture

Thank you for providing the official oligarch propaganda which justifies their oppression. "It is for the best, slave." - Oligos

Rhodin's picture

I wrote a comment on nanodot back in about 1997, in which I made the case that the parasitic classes would try to stymie the growth of nanotech because it significantly undermines their power over others... and that's what they live for (for the most part they already have effectively-unbounded consumption choice sets).


If even a quarter of funds wasted on the WOT and bailing out insolvent banksters were redirected to R&D these new technologies, we would soon come to a time when "work" is an optional lifestyle choice for those who wish to express their creativity.  Hard to "rule" people who have that choice!

I suspect that you are correct, and the vultures will attempt to "burn it down", before allowing true freedom to evolve in any way.

BigJim's picture

Homo Cheneyensis may have left it too late:

though I wouldn't put it past them to introduce legislation requiring all printable 3d designs to be submitted to government inspection before commited to print... for national security, of course.

GeoffreyT's picture

Y'know, I have seen that 'skin gun' video linked maybe 20 times, and can't get the fucking thing to play (even through a VPN or TOR).


To the commenter who thinks that it's "Expensive manufacturing replacing cheap manufacturing"... that's true in literally, exactly the same way as replacing human 'calculators' (women who sat in rows at desks doing calculations with log tables and so forth) with the first generation of 'expensive' mechanical calculators.

In the past, it was less expensive to print and buy a BOOK of triangular numbers - despite the algorithm for triangular numbers being extremely straightforward (the nth triangular number is simply (n2+n)/2 ).

Same was true for trig function solutions (sin, cos, tan, sec, cosec etc)... things that we now take for granted.

I only know this because I was the last generation who used trig tables in class: the pre-calculator era... my first school calculator cost my parents two weeks' average earnings (and was banned from my final year Pure Maths final because it was 'programmable'). My first PC cost me $8k in 1988... it was an NEC PowerMate IV, running at 12Mhz with 640k of RAM, a 140Mb HDD, and a 14" screen and 800x600 video.

Imagine if I had thought "Pfft... WAY too expensive - these things will NEVER become a consumer item".

I recommend that you read "The Information" by James Glieck - it has a fascinating chapter about the history of books of calculations - ALL of which were eventually rendered obsolete by the 'expensive' ancestors of the machine you used to type your comment. (I didn't read it - WAY too lazy - but I bought the audiobook).

Lastly - if your brain is only capable of instantaneous comparative statics, you might want to abstain from discussions about technology. That's not a life-liability - people can get by making comparative static decisions their whole lives (but they will only hit their optimal expansion path by chance). I have no doubt that you're good at other things.

Manthong's picture

My first PC cost me $3800.00 1983... it was a Compaq Pro (SN #4096) running at 33.33 RPM (5 MHz) with 256k of RAM, two 5.25 floppies, and a 9" screen -- still have it.

I would have bought an Osborne or a Kaypro, but I wanted that advanced DOS operating system instead of CPM.

Can't wait to get me one of them ink deposition printers. I can buy one now in 2011 dollars that cost way less than the Laserjet II I bought in 1990 for over two grand.

AnAnonymous's picture

Expensive manufacturing replacing cheap manufacturing... Why not?

Peak Everything's picture

Technology innovation is mostly about finding new ways to consume energy. 3D printing will be long forgotten a decade from now as we scramble for food. Too bad it can't print a 3D oil well.

Gohn Galt's picture

This is great stuff.  3-D printing is a great way to build parts or gadgets.  You can set one up yourself using recycled materials.  Of course you can't make money off of what everyone can get for free, so they call it special composite.


As far as oil goes, we don't need it.  There are plenty of other ways to accomplishes the tasks of oil with Zerofootprint.  Food you can raise and grow.

InconvenientCounterParty's picture

You might be right. If you spot the few, new efficiencies in the mix of net negatives you win a prize. 

Mercury's picture

Uh, no.  Technology innovation is mostly about finding new ways to consume less energy or the same energy more efficiently.  Staple foodstuffs are cheaper now than they ever have been because of technological innovations.

Peak Everything's picture

Uh no. You are right that that we innovate to accomplish more work (and thus produce more wealth) with less energy. But we then use the extra wealth to invest and purchase more stuff. The trend therefore is increased efficiency AND increased energy use. This is called Jeavon's paradox.

For example, people think we switched from coal to oil in the early 1900's. What really happened is that we kept using coal and added oil.

Mercury's picture

That's a separate problem.  Generally, the more we have the more we want.  Beyond a certain (pretty low) level, longer life and more stuff doesn't really add up to more happiness but such is human nature.

Theoretically, we could lay around most of the day with all our basic needs provided for by technology but vesting some authority with the power to say when you've had enough of something doesn't really have a very good track record of promoting the good life either.

LawsofPhysics's picture

"Staple foodstuffs are cheaper now than they ever have been because of technological innovations."

What planet are you living on?  The world has been eating fossil fuel via the Haber Bosch process (the only way you can make enough fertilizer to feed 7+ billion people) for almost a hundred years now.  It takes almost a volt of energy to simply break the di-nitrogen triple bond and another volt to reduce a mole of nitrogen gas to two moles of ammonia.  That is the thermodynamics of the reaction and no matter what the technology is, the thermodynamics will never change.  All you can do is make it more efficient and even if the reaction were 100% efficient, it remains a HUGE amount of energy on the scale required to produce enough fertilizer to feed everyone.  Human deflation cometh.

Look outside of America fucknut, people the world over spend considerably more of their income on food.  Why do you think China is seeing more protests?  Go ahead, end all farm subsidies, I dare you.  Moreover, what is grain and corn trading at again?  Yeah, I thought so, fucking troll.

Mad Cow's picture

Patience, wipe the drool off your face, we'll destroy ourselves soon enough.

Mercury's picture

Put animal and vegetable farming in the same place like they used to be and a lot of those fertilizer/waste problems will take care of themselves.

People are hungry is places like Africa and China mostly for political reasons. 

End farm subsidies that inefficiently make sugar out of corn and ethanol out of corn?...sign me up.  Let's see what we can make with American grown hemp for a change.

Commodity food prices are rising in large part because the Fed is debasing the $US not because modern aggriculture has suddenly become unworkable.

Blindweb's picture

Wrong.  Food is cheaper because we use 400 gallons of oil equivalent to feed every American.


Energy use in the U.S. has been flat for 40 years.  Quality of life has been flat in the U.S. for 40 years.  Energy use finally dropped in 2008.  Quality of life dropped in 2008...

Mercury's picture

Yeah, that's 1.095 gallons a day.  I'll take that over driving a donkey through the dirt any day.

It depends what you mean by quality of life. There's no way that on average Americans are working physically harder than they were 40 years ago so if energy use is flat over the same time period then quality of life (by that measure anyway) has gone up. Life expectancy has gone up over that time period too.

metastar's picture

3-D Printing Technology. Just imagine the possibilities for The Bernank!

R Man J's picture

Yes....long gold toner cartridges....

duo's picture

You could switch from Maples to Phils or Eagles with minimal machine downtime!