The Future of 3D Printing and its Societal Impacts

This blog post is about the ways in which 3D printing technology will advance and the overall societal impact that it will have. I discuss the ways in which nanotechnology and 3D printing are coming together to produce object such as nano-robots and complex circuit architecture. I continue by discussing the ways in which the theoretical creation of nano/molecular assemblers will change the way humanity relates to matter and with each other. An organization called the Open Source Nano Replicator Initiative is planning on creating a molecular assembler that will build molecules from atomic raw materials, and then chemically bond these molecules together on top of each other to create an object. They believe that this will have effects on humanity that are unprecedented because molecular assemblers in the hands of everyone would theoretically end scarcity of matter in our reality. Additionally, I discuss the ways in which 3D printing can currently be used for consumers and manufacturers to corroborate on objects to “debug” and perfect them similarly to the way a software company releases a beta of their product to be tested by consumers.


The Societal Impacts of 3D Printing

7 thoughts on “The Future of 3D Printing and its Societal Impacts

  1. Jessica Thomulka

    After having the opportunity to work with a 3D printer as part of my summer internship, I can say that this nano-printing sounds awesome. As Tom mentioned in the video, modern 3D printers print objects layer by layer, creating complex and delicate structures. The printer I worked with took multiple hours to print an object the size of a lime which is extremely inconvenient. Additionally, the printer only printed one type of polymer filament which is also not very versatile.
    Technically, every type of 3D printing, nano or not, works the same way as the molecular assembler. Anything that is synthesized is a system of small reactions or molecular interactions. The current convention of printing works on the same scale as the molecular assembler, but just with the same material. Essentially the way it is now is a system of covalent interactions with the same material. So it is and A-A interaction instead of an A-B interaction which is what the molecular assembler is attempting to facilitate.
    This being said, the ability for a printer to print on the nano scale is extremely impressive and it has tremendous potential to benefit society. The first thing I think of when I learned about this technology is its application in the electronics industry. Electronics companies already rely on the shrinking of their product to make it more advanced and more marketable. With this nano printing technology batteries can become smaller as well as mother boards and their components. We may even see multi-terabyte hard drives the size of your finger.
    The claim that non-printing and molecular assemblers may be able to end scarcity is an important one. I think that we as humans have an obligation to end poverty and hardship for our fellow neighbors and people all over the world. With these printers anybody would be able to print an item that is “essential”.
    There is no question that 3D printers are and have the potential to disrupt all sorts of markets. I think it is important to consider the potential for intellectual property and copyright infringement. Even with the ability to print any object on demand will it be legal?
    An area where I think this molecular assembly could have a great impact is the pharmaceutical industry. Thousands of people cannot afford their medications and end up having to forgo their medication due to financial restraints. With these printers, simple medications like Advil to specific disease-targeted drugs can be printed by anyone with access to the printer and the raw materials.
    I know that 3D printers are used for all sorts of prototyping in industry today. This will only continue with the molecular assemblers.
    I think that the use of nano-printers will really open up innovation in today’s society. The unthinkable will be attainable just because of the scale of the printer. The printer will have the ability to print objects that human’s physically cannot manufacture due to their size.
    I am interested in following the nano-printers and the molecular assemblers as they become more mainstream.

  2. Nicholas Sibilia

    3D printers overall are becoming a huge leap forward for humanity. As mentioned above they could put an end to “scarcity of matter in our reality”, this could have such an impact on humanity and business itself. I do not know much about them, however after this post I am much more informed on them and the effect they can have on all different aspects of industry and peoples day to day lives. The presentation of the information was very well put together and presented in such a manner that it captured the readers attention and also kept it. With such a new piece of technology many people do not know too much about 3D printers or what they can do for our lives. This article is a great ice breaker to what could come in the near future in our lives and world.

  3. Eric A Novembre

    In high school I had the opportunity to use 3d printers in our Computer Aided Design and Animation class (CADA). Before we ever went into the designing aspect of our class our teacher went into the real world possibilities in 3D printing. Currently there are plans for NASA to send a 3D printer into space. Instead of sending multiple tools up into space which is extremely costly, they (NASA) can print their materials up in space. Besides being cost effective NASA plans on printing parts that become defective in space. Another amazing example of how 3D printing has evolved today is “Nano Replicator Initiative is planning on creating a molecular assembler that will build molecules from atomic raw materials, and then chemically bond these molecules together on top of each other to create an object. They believe that this will have effects on humanity that are unprecedented because molecular assemblers in the hands of everyone would theoretically end scarcity of matter in our reality.”
    A couple years ago I went to a volunteer event (science fair) for kids to see newly invented technological equipment. The kids were allowed to play and watch people show them these new discoveries humans have to this fair. My job was to organize and carry this equipment in. one this things I brought in was the 3D printer, first time I ever saw and heard of one. So I was like a little boy with it as well, watching it make all different types of things. It was amazing on how it would bring just a mere image into reality. The first they made was a human ear, it amazed me because when I felt it, it felt real. Now it is two years later and these 3D printers are creating cars. I thought about this and thought to myself and thought about the pros and cons of this 3D printer. Yes it bring great value to humans now that it can make parts for a nose or ear, but will it create less jobs? I think so. Anyways I believe this 3D printer device is the future to many things on this planet and I also believe that even though it may deplete jobs, people will find their ways around them and still have enough jobs in the world to not worry about this luxurious device. I mean now it is starting to be able to print skin, real life skin! That is amazing and ill help so many people who have damaged skin due for war, cancer, etc. this product is soon to be the present, not the future.
    Cullen, Tom. “The Future of 3D Printing and Its Societal Impacts.” Shannonweb. N.p., 9 Nov. 2015. Web. 20 Nov. 2015. .

  4. Stephen Gallic

    One of the biggest innovation of the 21st century is 3D printing. We now have the ability to create products that we never thought possible in ways we never dreamed of. Some of the results of 3D printing have been 3D chocolate molecular structures (THAT YOU CAN EAT), prosthetic limbs, and as Eric Novembre said in his post, even NASA is getting in on the action. NASA plans on printing parts that become defective in space. Another amazing example of how 3D printing has evolved today is the “Nano Replicator Initiative.” As Tom says in his video, the Initiative is planning on creating a molecular assembler that will build molecules from atomic raw materials, and then chemically bond these molecules together on top of each other to create an object. But this innovative way of printing and manufacturing is not as new as I thought.
    I personally have never worked with a 3D printer which is why I thought it was such a new technology. But, in fact, 3D printing has been around since the 1980’s when a Massachusetts Institute of Technology team led by Emanuel Sachs in the late 1980s made 3D printing a reality. “Also known as binder jetting, the technique involves laying down a layer of a powder and then squirting a liquid binder on the areas to be solidified. While similar to conventional ink jet printers, 3-D printers are able to build additional layers on top of previous ones to construct 3-D objects, even sophisticated objects that serve as medical implants.” The advancements in 3D printing have been so vast that the possibilities of what is printable is virtually endless. The advancements allow batteries to be made that are the size of a grain of sand!!!! Although something as big as this might take a mere 5 minutes to make something as big as a prosthetic arm can take days. But this lengthy process is still faster and more economically efficient than the usual process. Also, the measurements can be more precise and exact if it were made by human hands. Another aspect is this size as I mentioned before. Humans can only create objects that are so small, 3D printing can change that. 3D printing will no doubt change the way our world creates materials as is evident already and I am eager to see the printers used to their full potential. This technology will only continue to advance and make impossibilities possible.

  5. Ryan Skolnick

    The idea of having nano-3D printing machines seems very much like science-fiction to me. However, advances in the industry are making this a possibility. While it still seems insane that 3D printers will soon be able to print structures so small our eyes cannot even view them, these advancements are coming along. The more advanced we get with 3D printing, the more 3D printers will become widely used and available to all: one of my friends who is a physics major recently bought himself a 3D printer as a Christmas gift— they are now cheaper then most TVs. What is pretty cool is that most 3D printers available on the market for cheap were printed from a 3D printer. This lets you see the quality of the prints you make and helps determine whether or not you want to buy the printer. 3D printers are very interesting— they print layer upon layer to develop a 3D structure. Because of this process, you can set the layer height and other settings to either view less layers or more. Less layers actually has worse quality, where more layers produce better quality prints— but they take longer. Seton Hall has a 3D printer, and the prints that come out of it are quite amazing. It is interesting to see the different prints that come out and to see how the physics students adjust the settings to get a near perfect version of what they wanted to print. 3D printing seems to be the future— but personally the printers need to be able to handle a wider array of materials. If we could manufacture car parts from 3D printers, imagine the money it would save. Rather than needing specialized labor or large, expensive machines, we could simply download a template from online and upload it to the 3D printer to print. This would save time and money— but would also eliminate the need for a large number of jobs. I feel as though every time there is a disruption in some industry due to new technology, there is a significant loss of low-skill jobs. This would create a large number of newly unemployed people since their jobs were replaced by 3D printers. This can be a large issue for the future, and I think we are already starting to see its effects. As technological increases become commonplace— some might even say ubiquitous— more and more unskilled workers are being laid off because this new machine can do their job faster and for less money. The rise of 3D printing will only compound this issue— there is no way that it will not. 3D printing will help many industries complete their tasks in a cost effective and quick manner. 3D printing is definitely where the future is headed, but there needs to be a lot of improvements before they can become as mainstream as they should. For one, they need to be able to print out any material given to them in a concise manner. Two, they need to print at a much higher quality: if I can see the layers, they are not printing at a high enough quality. Three, they need to become a lot cheaper for the better versions. Right now the cheaper versions are not necessarily all that good to use— but they get the job done. And four, we need to devise a way to bring the laid off workers back into the work force, since 3D printing will most likely take over and completely demolish many different industries (the automobile industry being one of many). If we can accomplish these four items, 3D printing will be a huge success in the mainstream market.

  6. Matthew Flanagan

    3D printing really is a sign of how far technology has come. The ability to create anything, out of anything is something straight out of science fiction. 3D printing is a disruptor that can completely change the way the economy and the world works. Not only does this make it possible to make objects, but it also makes it possible to make things like body parts. It makes almost anything possible to be made. The thought of having a 3D printer in every household in our lifetime is life changing. We will be able to have the things that we need almost immediately.
    As of right now, 3D printing is not advanced enough to be in every household and to actually make useful things in a timely fashion. It takes hours to even make a simple object on a 3D printer. And the things that are made on 3D printers as of now are only plastic and metal and are only made out of one or 2 materials. In order to make a computer in a 3D printer, there would need to be hundreds of different raw materials available. The technology is nowhere near where it needs to be to be able to download a file from and print out an iPhone on your very own 3D printer and have it ready the next day. The other problem with 3D printing is how expensive one of these 3D printers it. One that is actually useful costs thousands of dollars. And only being able to make something out of plastic is not worth the thousands of dollars. I do believe that the technology will get to that point, but it will probably take a couple of decades.
    There are many problems that come along with any amazing innovation. With the internet came cybercrimes and similarly there will be malicious opportunities with 3D printing. The example that tom gave in the video is someone that made a gun out of a 3D printer. This may not be a problem for law abiding citizens, however for people that have bad intentions, they can do much worse than a gun. They could make bombs and other weapons. I think a bomb would be easier to make than a gun too.
    With advanced 3D printing, there will need to be a way for authorities to know what is being printed and there will need to be a way to prevent people from making illegal objects. Also, there will need to be a way to prevent intellectual theft. What if someone gets their hands on the designs for an iPhone and then everyone is now able to print their own iPhone? Apple could go out of business. There will need to be many measures taken to prevent crime in 3D printing. Many steps will need to be taken to prevent theft and the making of illegal objects. I cannot think of a way to make it completely safe, but I’m sure that it will be as secure as possible before people get the chance to commit real crimes with it.

  7. Ryan Jolluck

    3D printing has created many possible innovations in many fields such as medical and manufacturing. People have already designed some brilliant objects with 3D printers. Really the only downsides with #ds printers currently are the cost and time it takes to create something. Nano technology is one area in which can prove to be very fascinating and practical. As Tom said in the video, it can revolutionize the way modern society operates. The possibilities are vast and has a lot of room for improvement and innovation. As the technology progressing in the future, costs should reduce and efficiency of the printers increase. The types of materials that is currently used will become more robust and effective. This will lead more and more people to possess and use them in creative ways. This is what I’m most excited about. What people’s imagination can put together that was not possible before. With Nano printing the types of applications are endless. The amount of applications that need the precision and use of Nano technology is a leap forward.


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