Okay, that title might be a bit of a mislead, but after years of developing the technology, it seems that we might have something which is essentially the next best thing. Until recently, 3D printers were designed for use exclusively by trained technicians. And despite the ease with which modern 3D printers can be used, it is still difficult to design and prep the requisite models, which still requires expertise in modelling software.
But that too could be changing, thanks to the new MakerBot’s Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner. Designed to supplement their printer (the Replicator 2) this device is capable of scanning any object, creating a three-dimensional model, and then uploading it to your printer where it will then be molded into solid form, bit by bit. In effect, people can now create objects as easily as they could print off an inkjet document.
The Digitizer was revealed for the first time at the South by South West (SXSW) Conference in Austin, Texas earlier today, where emerging technologies are being showcased alongside the latest in entertainment and music. And while the device was merely a prototype, one which is still undergoing testing and refining, MakerBot announced that they plan to begin commercial production very soon.
Which makes it official. Human beings now have access to Replicator technology and is one step closer to living in a Star Trek universe! Granted, were not quite to the point where we can generate anything, including food and precious metals, but this latest development has revealed to us a future where DIY can encompass just about anything. If a an appliance breaks in your home, just scan the faulty component and download it into your printer. No need to contact the manufacturer and activate that troublesome warranty!
Naturally, there are concerns about the controversy this will create as well. While the Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner will certainly be another big step towards making 3D printing more accessible, it’s also sure to add fuel the debate over the legality and copyright issues of duplicating real world objects. What’s more, the cost of each unit (most likely a few thousand dollars each) is pretty prohibitive for most households, raising the question of real access.
Nevertheless, this is still pretty exciting news. Since the beginning of recorded history, our collective economic models have been based on the idea of resource scarcity. But with further refinements and the ability to generate objects out of more materials (including the organic), all our economic models are likely to change and we could very well be embarking on a future where scarcity has effectively become obsolete.
Yes, with a little more time, research and cool gadgets, we could be witnessing the collapse of financial history. Where all units of value will be made useless and as a species, we’ll be one step closer to economic equilibrium! And I have to admit, this is one area of change that I find exciting, as opposed to scary!