During my involuntary freelance exploration (unemployment) period last year I was engaged to do some research into 3D Printing/Rapid Manufacturing. I did research and developed a set of future technology scenarios that included:
- A peer-to-peer design revolution where Etsy beomes the ITunes of design and art.
- A type of nano-engineered cardboard (I love cardboard) with intelligent electronics conformally-printed so that it can be folded to create emergency housing. The cardboard would be smart enough to know which surfaces were exposed to sun and use solar cells to gather energy that could power lighting units on the surfaces turned inward.
- A steak cultured from meat and fat cells printed onto a 3-D collagen lattice that won the James Beard award, thus passing the “Turing Test” for cruelty-free, artificial meat.
- A large machine that can “print” entire homes, complete with plumbing and electricity.
- And a machine that can print spare human parts for transplants.
And I’ll be damned if that last one, the least imaginative of my scenarios in my opinion, isn’t on the verge of coming true. At least there’s the promise within five years.
One faint advantage of being a futurist is that every once in a while you get one of those, “Hey! I anticipated that back in…” moments. Faint because, without action, those moments are kind of impotent. Either the client didn’t listen to you or you personally don’t have the money to invest in these “next big things” you keep seeing years in advance.
But hey if you have the money, look into Rapid Manufacturing as an investment. If you’re going to college to study anything connected to engineering, take classes that give you knowledge and skills with these machines. They will enable many “meat world” objects to be digitized and shared. Manufacturing and design will be revolutionized. Business models will be overturned. New industries will be created.