November 04, 2014
 

There’s a lot of hype around 3D printers. Today, they’re popping up in public libraries, corner stores, and thanks to Amazon, even your Aunt Edna’s living room.



Venture capitalist Esther Dyson sees 3D printers revolutionizing recycling and space travel, but Jessica Banks — founder of Rock, Paper, Robot — cautions the general public to calm down. “Right now a lot of people are like, ‘I’m gonna get a 3D printer and I’m gonna make everything.’ And then what do they realize? Open the box, what’s not in the box? Skills, creativity… and so what do they make? What I call kind of a 'digital poop.'"

People who have the right skills and creativity, however, are taking 3D printing to the next level, adds Jason Pontin of MIT Tech ReviewJennifer Lewis at Harvard “is printing multiple inks, including vasculature — flesh — it is far out stuff," says Pontin. "That’s the future of 3D printing, those mixtures of materials."

It also takes time for technologies like these to really take off and be user-friendly, Nicco Mele, author of The End of Big, notes.

“My experience with my 3D printer,” says Mele, “was almost exactly how I felt with my first dial up modem in 1991; you had to really figure it out. You had to play with it. It was kind of a pain in the butt. It was definitely not consumer friendly or I would think of it as ‘mom friendly.’ And yet immediately, this whole vista of what might be possible opens up."

“What I imagined was possible with that,” adds Mele, continuing the comparison to his modem, “was actually an enormously limited vision of what we now have today." Which means that in the not-so-distant future, 3D printers could find a role in society beyond our wildest dreams.

Jessica Banks, Nicco Mele, 3D printing, Jason Pontin, Sci and Tech, Innovation Hub Live, Karim Lakhani

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