Okay so, the year is 2020 and someone in a hospital needs a limb and the doctor shrugs and says “Print it out.” Sounds farfetched? Not as much you’d like to think. Considering the technological advancements of last few years, it will be safe to assume that printers of tomorrow will print much more than printouts on paper. In fact, 3d-printers exist even today and printing three-dimensional objects is very much a reality. If we have 3d-printers now, imagine what might be in store for us a few years down the line. Until printing prosthetic limbs becomes a normal activity, let’s take a look at what exactly can we expect from the printer makers in the near future:
3D printers, a household item
If you thought 3D-printers are a recent development well, they aren’t. The first 3d-printer was conceived way back in 1984 by a gentleman named Charles Hull. Since then, 3d-printers have grown in leaps and bounds. Nowadays, 3d-printers are extensively used in various business sectors including fashion designing, engineering, etc and enjoy a great reception worldwide. But since mid-range 3d-printers come in the range of $15,000, it is highly unlikely that they would become a household item anytime soon. However, thanks to their potential and a considerable increase in demand, prices of 3d-printers will probably come down. Moreover, tech pundits all around the world are coming up with innovative ways to make the 3d-printer more cost-effective. Hopefully in the coming years this technology will find a home in every household.
Craving for pizza? Print it
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the 3d-printer is destined to be a blockbuster but what if we told you that you can even have a printer that can actually print food. Yes, the food that we eat to live. You’ll be able to have a food printer right in your home kitchen in a decade or so. Unbelievable? Believe it! All this is thanks to the technique Jeffrey Ian Lipton and his team has developed in Cornell University’s Computational Synthesis Lab (CCSL). This printer requires edible inks of ingredients that would couple up with electronic blueprints called FebApps to print food. Edible inks are loaded in syringes, which act as feeders to printing cartridges and the electronic blueprints on the other hand specify which ingredient goes where. These cartridges are required to give a desired shape to the end product which can be gulped up just like any conventional eatable. So, in a few years time, once you own a printer like this, all you will need are edible inks, and with just a few clicks your pizza would be printed for you. To make things a bit more interesting, research is also underway to make the printed food more interesting. You would have the flexibility to give twist to your favorite recipe by tweaking its texture, taste or color as per your liking. So, you can expect your microwave to retire sooner than expected and make way for the food printer.
A printer that could print body parts. Really?
Though it may take about a quarter of a century to come into being but soon, losing a hand might be the least of your worries. Researchers at the CCSL are actually working on a printer that would replace your lost body part, without breaking a sweat. Sometime in the mid-2030s, doctors may advise you to get your body scanned through a body scanner, just like they advise you certain vaccinations nowadays. The scanner would copy all your body parts and store them in a database. And if due to any unfortunate event you lose your hand, doctors will look up for relevant info from the database and simply print you a brand-spanking-new fully functional hand. In fact, initial signs are really encouraging and this just might be ’the’ scientific invention of the 21st century. CCSL has developed a printer that prints an ear from silicone, which may soon work like a real ear. The world’s first 3D bioprinter that can regrow limbs is very much a reality, courtesy the collaboration between Invetech and Organavo. It is ready for commercial use as well!
With technology conquering new frontiers with every passing day, it is fair to say that the day is not far when no matter what you want your printer may just print it for you and that too at a really affordable price. May be one day, printers might just solve world hunger issues as well.
Image by: Geekobator