Ten years ago, we watched with a smile as Captain Jean Luc Picard relaxed in his private quarters on the Starship Enterprise and said: “Computer, play Mozart’s fifth symphony.” Today, Alexa and Siri mean we can all do exactly the same thing. And if the results of the latest industry study on 3D printing are anything to go by, Picard’s ability to enjoy a cheese sandwich and a glass of wine from his replicator while he listens to his music might be closer than we think too.
3D printing is nothing new – in fact, the original technology was born before Picard and friends had ousted Captain Kirk and the rest of the original Star Trek crew from our screens. But it is only in more recent years that the full implications have been understood. This means that innovative 3D printing technology is seeing increasing investment, leading to wider applications and bringing cost and availability into the home technology market for the first time.
Life on Mars
The technology to create food, drink and body parts using a 3D printer might still be in the realms of science fiction, but given that the technology has already been used to successfully create artificial ovaries in mice, it requires no great leap of the imagination to see just how wide the ramifications of 3D printing could be.
Meanwhile, no less an organization than NASA has demonstrated its commitment to 3D technological development. They have launched a challenge inviting kids to design 3D food implements that the next generation of real life space explorers can print off and use. Winning designs will be included in missions to Mars, which, say NASA, can realistically be expected to take place in the mid 21st century.
Engaging the Next Generation
Whether real-life Kirks and Picards will really be using these designs to chow down their vacuum packed space food is open to conjecture, but one thing is for certain – the initiative is helping to bring 3D printing into the mainstream and to encourage the next generation of designers to embrace this exciting technology.
With 3D printers set to become an increasingly common sight in homes and businesses over the next year or two, it is tempting to say that the sky is the limit as to where the technology might take us. But perhaps a more appropriate phrase would be “to boldly go where no one has gone before.”