Proto teleporting: Printing 3D objects

Posted on January 26, 2012  /  2 Comments

The NYT piece is focused on the intellectual property issues. But what I sense is the coming of age of 3D printing.

As I wrote in a column in November, people will soon be able to download files of physical objects and print them out at home. Although being able to print out a new mug or toothbrush at home sounds magical, I said that there would surely be copyright problems that occur as a result of this technology’s going mainstream.

This theory struck oil this week when the Pirate Bay, a notorious peer-to-peer file-sharing Web site that is a source of free copyrighted music and movies, said it was creating a new download section on its site that would enable people to freely take files a 3-D printer can recreate into physical things.

The possibilities are sketched out in a piece I wrote two years back, but has still not come out in print:

Gone were the days of massive manufacturing plants that made lots of identical things that were then transported to far places at great cost and damage to the environment. Instead, goods were now produced through decentralized smart manufacturing processes that were controlled from central design centers at the nodes of massive data networks. Instead of making the same thing in millions of copies, the new manufacturing allowed customer input into the design process in ways that made supply follow demand, not vice versa. The relentless pressure to drive down transaction costs that emanated from the budget telecom network model that South Asia pioneered stood the region in good stead. Combined with the paradigm of design for extreme affordability that drove corporate strategy in the region in first few decades of the 20th Century, it gave South Asian tortoises an edge over the Chinese hares that had prematurely got locked-in to old style mass production.