Will 3-D printing launch a new industrial revolution?

Apr 13, 2012 By Joel N. Shurkin
Credit: bre pettis via flickr

Peter Schmitt, an MIT doctoral student, printed a clock in 2009. He didn't print an image of a clock on a piece of paper. He printed a three-dimensional clock -- an eight-inch diameter plastic timekeeping device with moving gears, hands and counterweights.

When he put it up on a wall and pushed the counterweight, it went ticktock.

"It wasn't very accurate, but it was a functioning clock," Schmitt said.

MIT scientists also would like you to be able to print your own robot. Their vision: Decide what you want it to do, download the design from the Internet, use software to make whatever changes you want and hit "print."

Scientists around the world are working on a technology that could go well beyond robots and clocks and turn the world's economy upside-down. It goes by the name of 3-D printing, and some proclaim that it will trigger a new . The Atlantic Council, an industry based in Washington, D.C., says the technology is "transformational."

Those working in the field call it "additive manufacturing."

Much of modern manufacturing is by reduction. Manufacturers take blocks of plastic, wood, or metal, and grind and machine away until they get the item they want. All the plastic, wood, or metal that doesn't make it into the item is thrown away, maybe as much as 90 percent wasted.

3-D printing puts down layers of metal powders or as directed by software, just as ink is laid down on paper directed by printer drivers. After each layer is completed, the tray holding the item is lowered a fraction of a millimeter and the next layer is added. Printing continues until the piece is complete.

is allowed to cool and harden; plastics or metal powders are hardened by heat or . The ingredients aren't limited to those substances; almost anything that flows can be accommodated, even chocolate.

There is little waste, and it is possible to change the object by simply working with the software that drives the printer the way text is changed in a word processor.

The end products may be better or possibly more beautiful than current products, the council wrote in a research report. 3-D printing allows designs impossible to make with conventional manufacturing techniques.

The first 3-D printer was invented by the American Charles Hull in 1984. The first machines were huge, slow, very expensive, and had limited use.

In 2004, Adrian Bowyer, a lecturer at Bath University in England, invented a machine that manufactured 50 percent of its own parts and in 2008, the machine printed itself. There was no real profit to be made in a self-replicating machine so Bowyer put the RepRap in the public domain, "open source" in the lexicon. Anyone could buy this desktop printer for under $400 and adapt it at will to print more copies of itself, or other items.

The design keeps improving as people think of better ways to do things, a form of crowd-sourcing, and users share designs online, often for free.

Additive manufacturing, meanwhile, became a huge and growing industry. According to Wohler Associates, a Colorado consulting firm, the industry has sustained an annual growth rate of 26.2 percent for more than 20 years and revenues will reach $3 billion by 2016.

Every year the technique turns out more complex artifacts, faster and cheaper. The technology is now used to print aircraft landing gears, dresses, car parts, individualized tooth crowns, artificial hips and knees, and more.

Scientists are experimenting with human cells to print organs. An Airbus contractor is working on printing an entire aircraft wing using titanium powder. Parts of the fuselage of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner were printed.

Printing a robot is far more complicated than building a clock, but researchers at MIT, the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard think the result will "transform manufacturing and … democratize access to robots," according to MIT's Daniela Rus, leader of the project.

You could identify a need -- say cleaning up the kitchen floor after a kid spilled lunch -- and design a robot specifically for tasks like that. You would download a design from the Internet, adjust to customize it for your kitchen, and print out exactly the robot you designed, moving parts and all.

The researchers already have printed two robots, including one designed to go into contaminated areas and one with a gripper that would help people with disabilities.

The technology introduces serious issues for the world economy.

Most finished products now are the result of many parts manufactured in various places around the world, coming together for assembling into one product. They are then shipped to customers around the world. With 3-D printing, in theory, the entire product would be made at one site, at one time, in one machine, anywhere. Economies of scale would be irrelevant.

"Printing a few thousand iPhones on demand (and with instant updates or different versions for each phone) at a local facility that can manufacture many other products may be far more cost-effective than manufacturing ten million identical iPhones in China and shipping them to 180 countries around the world," the Atlantic Council wrote in a report.

Clearly, not everyone would share the advantages. Manufacturing centers like China could lose millions of jobs in that sector, and their economies could be destabilized. The industries that transport the supply line and distribute the finished product would also be hit, the council wrote. Warehouses full of parts and products could be replaced by machines that print on demand.

The council predicts a renaissance in American manufacturing. But that concept has issues too: most of the machines require no human assistance once the printing starts. You turn it on before you leave the factory and when you come back in the morning, your widget is there.

Explore further: Researchers find security flaws in backscatter X-ray scanners

Source: Inside Science News Service

4.8 /5 (35 votes)

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User comments : 56

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Egleton
2.1 / 5 (14) Apr 13, 2012
One of the aims should be to take Lunar soil and use electron beams to melt it into functioning Printers. When enough printers have been assembled they can be instructed from Earth to make machines and a linear accelerator. Material could be hurled to L4 and 5 where other printers could make machines to create habitats for us.
We could escape from this gravity well in our carpet slippers.

Either that or we will die in our billions. Is everyone ignoring the "Limits to Growth" report?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (11) Apr 13, 2012
3D printing is a great tool, but the statement: "the machine printed itself" is an oversimplification. Neither the ink-nozzle, nor the eletronics, nor the electric motors to move the nozzle were printed. What can be printed by a 3D printer are the parts that make up its frame. so we're still quite a ways away from von Neumann machines.

Still, there are very interesting applications. The one I really like is where you print your own house.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (45) Apr 13, 2012
RepRap did not print a copy of itself, and no 3d printer has.

RepRap is composed of a series of metal rods strung together via corner and edge braces. It also includes 4 motors and of course a microcontroller to drive those motors.

What was printed were the corners and edge supports that make up the minority of the device.

With a sufficiently accurate printer, working gears and bearings can indeed be printed in place.

The best 3d printers for this task lay down layers of plastic powder onto a working piece and use a polymer adhesive to glue the powder together, or use a metal powder cintered into a solid by laser.

Hobbyest machines typically extrude heated PVC plastic. Strength seems reasonable, but production seems to be limited to plastic clips, holders, cups, hooks, etc.
plaasjaapie
2.1 / 5 (11) Apr 13, 2012
I am always amazed and depressed that all some dork at MIT has to do is to express an interest in doing something that's already been done and DC drowns him in grant money. The old boy network is alive and well in "research".

If you doubt what I'm saying ask yourself what lasting contribution aside from hype that MIT's much touted Media Lab has ever made?
Spaceman78
4.8 / 5 (5) Apr 13, 2012
This would be quite handy to create replacement parts for older or broken machines and items. I'm sure well see this technology improved upon quite a bit in the future.
Eikka
4.3 / 5 (6) Apr 13, 2012
Printing in metal at the moment relies on soft alloys, so the end result isn't exactly as strong as you'd like. The technique is to mix e.g. steel and tin powder with an organic glue, and then heat it to melt the tin, which then solders the grains together.

The traditional manufacturing methods have their advantages in their various processes that give the metals different properties, like drawing, casting, forging, annealing, quenching, aging etc. that affect the material down at the molecular level.

You can't 3D print scissors, for example, because they wouldn't keep a sharp edge.

But what it does allow you to do is to cheaply print a machine that can make scissors, or at least most of the machine.
plaasjaapie
2.3 / 5 (6) Apr 13, 2012
@Vendicar As Wolfgang Pauli said, "That isn't even wrong." You really need to catch up on the state of play in the field before you make such a fool of yourself again. :-(
Scottingham
4 / 5 (5) Apr 13, 2012
This is more proof that the whole concept of having to work for a living is fast becoming outdated.

Basic income for all people!
TrinityComplex
4.4 / 5 (5) Apr 13, 2012
Imagine when the actual nozzles and assembly devices are reduced to particle levels, or even smaller. All you would need is a feed of base materials (hydrogen, carbon, etc.) from a source and you could compile it all into anything. Yes, likely a long way off, but this is the beginning of that possibility.

This idea was put forth in the book Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson, published in 1995. I always find it interesting when science starts to catch up to far-out science fiction.
Hot_Zee
4.7 / 5 (3) Apr 13, 2012
@Trinity
They are already doing this, it's called a Bio Printer.
search for it on YouTube, they won't let me post the link.

SkyAbove
4.5 / 5 (2) Apr 13, 2012
The 3-D printer is no doubt the forerunner of the bush robot by Hans Moravec. The bush robot with a pattern identify (mathematical description of an object) could in theory assemble atom by atom any object or life form at rapid speed. This would really transform society sky high. Please read Forever Pleasure: A Utopian Novel and Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind for more information.
Neurons_At_Work
5 / 5 (3) Apr 13, 2012
Still, there are very interesting applications. The one I really like is where you print your own house.


I agree--this particular application is fairly amazing. It was first developed to quickly 'print' concrete emergency shelters after something like a hurricane, but because it's able to do unconventional shapes like curves and domes, the possibilities go far beyond the original concept. I'll have to do some investigating, because I haven't heard much about this since it was featured in Popular Science some years ago.

Also, a 3D printer was recently installed on the International Space Station, so they could easily fabricate tools and repair parts instead of waiting for the next mission. The last I saw, they'd created a metal wrench of some sort.
Neurons_At_Work
4.3 / 5 (4) Apr 13, 2012
(It appears I'm incorrect on the above ISS statement--it is in the planning stages but not there yet. My bad.)
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) Apr 13, 2012
I'll have to do some investigating, because I haven't heard much about this since it was featured in Popular Science some years ago.

Last I heard they were working on concrete and porous bricks.

At the reserach institute where I worked between 2000 and 2005 we had a group doing development of rapid prototyping techniques. Resolution down to 10 micrometers, printing with metal, different sorts of plastics...ande also someone investigating low cost printing material because the materials used were still very expensive.

Had someone in to show us rapid prototyping using paper! Glue a sheet of paper over the top. Drive around with a laser and cut it, add the next layer, repeat. Incredible speed and a resolution dependent only on the paper's thickness. After the piece is finished you just have to crumble out all the bits you don't need (which will have been finely etched by the laser to disintegrate at a touch). Built a cage with disjointed balls inside within 10 minutes.
NotParker
1.5 / 5 (10) Apr 13, 2012
"Printing a few thousand iPhones on demand (and with instant updates or different versions for each phone) at a local facility that can manufacture many other products may be far more cost-effective than manufacturing ten million identical iPhones in China and shipping them to 180 countries around the world"

The reality is that shipping is practically free from China to any major port (compared to a few decades ago), while storage and shipping raw materials to 10s of thousands of local facilities is not.

http://ftalphavil...egative/

Plus electricity is cheaper in China thanks to the Al Gore's of the world.
BIG COCK
2 / 5 (4) Apr 13, 2012
One of the aims should be to take Lunar soil and use electron beams to melt it into functioning Printers. When enough printers have been assembled they can be instructed from Earth to make machines and a linear accelerator. Material could be hurled to L4 and 5 where other printers could make machines to create habitats for us.

Are you high on LSD?
baudrunner
1 / 5 (1) Apr 13, 2012
Clearly, not everyone would share the advantages. Manufacturing centers like China could lose millions of jobs in that sector, and their economies could be destabilized.
I guess we've already decided we don't like to work.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.3 / 5 (36) Apr 13, 2012
Some. But the plastic isn't fantastically strong, flexable, soft, hard, light, etc. as you might like/need.

"This would be quite handy to create replacement parts for older or broken machines and items." - Spaceman98
Vendicar_Decarian
0.4 / 5 (37) Apr 13, 2012
There is at least one company selling a simialr device that uses large roles of tape for the same purpose and in the same manner.

"Drive around with a laser and cut it, add the next layer, repeat. Incredible speed and a resolution dependent only on the paper's thickness." - Antilias
Vendicar_Decarian
0.2 / 5 (36) Apr 13, 2012
I've seen the state of the art.

It ain't gonna print itself anytime in your lifetime.

"You really need to catch up on the state of play in the field before you make such a fool of yourself again." - PlaasiTard

bg1
not rated yet Apr 13, 2012
What parts were made for the Dreamliner fuselage?
Anda
3.7 / 5 (7) Apr 13, 2012
The world's being destroyed thanks to the Notparker's of the world... :)
F... Idiot
NotParker
1 / 5 (6) Apr 13, 2012
The world's being destroyed thanks to the Notparker's of the world... :)
F... Idiot


Paying attention to the news and knowing shipping is incredibly cheap is destroying the world?

Are you sure it isn't your fantasy world being destroyed by facts?
Parsec
5 / 5 (1) Apr 14, 2012
The progress these machines are making is simply amazing. There is no fundamental reason that a 3D printer cannot be developed that could duplicate itself 100%, we just haven't figured out how to do so yet.

There are currently a ton of limitations. The parts produced are limited in strength, and despite the statement in the article that what things can be made up of is only limited by things that can flow, that's not really true. Parts currently can only be made out of things that can flow AND be converted by a simple step to a final form.

We are in the pre Model T stageof this technology. I predict it will be 20 years before we can really make a practical, 100% self replicating 3D printer, that can make parts as strong as other current manufacturing techniques.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.2 / 5 (37) Apr 14, 2012
Cells do it all the time.

"There is no fundamental reason that a 3D printer cannot be developed that could duplicate itself 100%, we just haven't figured out how to do so yet." - Parsec

Getting a printer to do it would require a little more volume, perhaps the size of a factory floor.

"I predict it will be 20 years before we can really make a practical, 100% self replicating 3D printer" - Parsec

I predict that if you multiply your time estimate by a factor of 100 you might be right.
StarGazer2011
2 / 5 (3) Apr 14, 2012
I think one of the problems with a von neuman machine right now is that all 3D printers rely on electronic integrated circuits which are etched at 25nm (or something). When a 3d printer can print an Intel i7 chip we will be getting close.
Sanescience
5 / 5 (2) Apr 14, 2012
"I predict it will be 20 years before we can really make a practical, 100% self replicating 3D printer" - Parsec

I predict that if you multiply your time estimate by a factor of 100 you might be right.


Wow, 2000 years!? And no one will ever need more than 640K! Yea, yea, not actually said by Bill, but similar sentiment.

Of the possible transformative technologies for the foreseeable future, this one has that kind of vaguely dangerous feeling. As the information age is fundamentally changing consumerism of audio/video by eliminating the cost of reproduction, imagine the possible disruptions if that is extended further into much larger segments of consumerism.

In a way it a new dimension of extending the digital age into the realm of the physical.



Egleton
1 / 5 (1) Apr 14, 2012
@ Little Willie.
You missed out this bit.

Either that or we will die in our billions. Is everyone ignoring the "Limits to Growth" report?"


Doug_Huffman
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 14, 2012
Either that or we will die in our billions. Is everyone ignoring the "Limits to Growth" report?
Which one, the Malthus 1789, or the Club of Rome 1972? The point being that they are both out of date and proven wrong in their conclusions.

Read, instead, N. N. Taleb on the failures of prediction in an unexpectedly complex reality.
billyswong
5 / 5 (1) Apr 14, 2012
@Vendicar_Decarian

I found it funny that you don't know things don't always develop in linear speed. Technological advances often come exponentially.
antialias_physorg
3.5 / 5 (2) Apr 14, 2012
echnological advances often come exponentially.

Technology and science is done by people. And people do not create "exponential" output unless you put an exponential number of people on a subject.
Terriva
4 / 5 (1) Apr 14, 2012
It would be nice to have a 3D printer capable of controlled sintering of the sand dust. This material is very cheap, hard and chemically resistant.
billyswong
5 / 5 (1) Apr 14, 2012
echnological advances often come exponentially.

Technology and science is done by people. And people do not create "exponential" output unless you put an exponential number of people on a subject.

Science and technologies are not factories - they are not article generators like assembly lines. Each one steps on each other's shoulders, and technological advances of communication and computation speeds up the development, which speeds up the advances of communication and computation, so on and so on.
billyswong
4.5 / 5 (2) Apr 14, 2012
and btw, people are working on AI scientists. Wait till that and you will see a "true" exponential growth. It is close behind the corner.
randith
3 / 5 (2) Apr 14, 2012

"Printing a few thousand iPhones on demand (and with instant updates or different versions for each phone) at a local facility that can manufacture many other products may be far more cost-effective than manufacturing ten million identical iPhones in China and shipping them to 180 countries around the world," the Atlantic Council wrote in a report.


Apple will ever make a product that is 3D printable because then it would be competing with pirated devices from every other Apple fanboy in America.

And if a company did make devices that were 3D printable, patent lawsuits would become astronomically more frequent.

IMHO 3D printing may become a mirror image of open source software: designs for most *consumer* devices will be freely available, but *commercial* machines will still cost money.
stealthc
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 14, 2012
expect government to have objections with the serviles being given something with which to produce for themselves with.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.1 / 5 (35) Apr 14, 2012
Sounds abrasive, so it can't be used for bearings.

Sounds non-flexible so it can't be used for flexible films.

Sounds porous so it can't be used where bacterial resistance is required.

Sounds porus so it can't be used where you want a clean surface.

Sounds opaque so it can't be used to create a transparent container

Sounds opaque so it can't be used to create a window

Sounds non-conductive, so it can't be used to create a circuit trace.

Sounds non-semiconductive so it can't be used to make a transistor.

Sounds like it has a high melting point to it can't be used to create a candle, or a thermo-fuse - or a household fuse link, or electrical solder, or plumbing solder, or glue

If Greek philosophy were still in vogue then a machine that dispensed only air, earth, fire and water, would suffice.

The world is a little more complex.

"This material is very cheap, hard and chemically resistant." - Terriva
Vendicar_Decarian
0.1 / 5 (35) Apr 14, 2012
Billy is right about this... Unfortunately the AI scientists have no concept as to what they are doing, so I don't expect any new concepts to come from them, even when they are at their best.

"and btw, people are working on AI scientists." - billyswrong
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (2) Apr 14, 2012
Each one steps on each other's shoulders, and technological advances of communication and computation speeds up the development, which speeds up the advances of communication and computation, so on and so on.

Sorry, no. I've been a scientist and that's just not how it works. Your way may be what you get from the movies (and from condensed viewing of articles on physorg). But the fact that a lot of stuff is happening in some areas (graphene, nanomaterials, solar cells, etc. ) is just the result of a lot of people working in that area. It's pretty much linear with the effort (resources) you put in.

Now, this doesn't say anything about the occasional revolutionary finding (which can happen anywhere regardless of resources) - but the speed at which an area of scientific inquiry moves ahead is only affected by that on a singular event scale (i.e. a sudden, singular 'bump').

Mostly it's just hard work and perseverance.
hikenboot
5 / 5 (2) Apr 14, 2012
It would be interesting to see someone come up with a printer that prints carbon nano tubes and single layers of graphene. Inclusion of atomic defects (based on various atoms) would produce different components and they would work at a varied temperature range (within the carbon nano-tubes heat range) such varied properties would be very effective in creating complex structures and devices.
Harkonnen
not rated yet Apr 14, 2012
This would be quite handy to create replacement parts for older or broken machines and items. I'm sure well see this technology improved upon quite a bit in the future.


Yes this would be awesome. Needed to replace the plastic stoppers on 2 of the seat belts in my car a little while ago. Went to the dealership, asked for some and as the guy went to grab some I pulled a couple bucks out of my pocket. He gets back, rings it up and says that will be 25 bucks!

I nearly 3D printed my own brick right there!

Two sets of plastic no bigger than a nickel....25 dollars...outrageous. Needless to say I didn't buy them lol.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.1 / 5 (35) Apr 15, 2012
That is planned obsolescence for you. Why produce something to last when you can produce a limited number by constantly redesigning the part and then brain washing the consumer that it is good for them to have the luxury of purchasing custom parts for their car, washer, dryer, fill in the blank.

You do realize don't you that there are entire trade magazines devoted to the discovery and manipulation of how unreliable and unservicable a product can be before consumers lose confidence in the brand.

The Auto industry became my enemy when I was 8 years old and I overheard my brother telling someone that a friend of his had to have the engine of his econoline van dropped in order to change a spark plug.

Manufacturing has degraded since then.

"He gets back, rings it up and says that will be 25 bucks!" - Hark
hariseldon
not rated yet Apr 15, 2012
Not just "Diamond Age" Joe Haldeman also desribes a nano-assembler in his novel "Forever Peace" that only requires raw material with the correct quantities of atomic elements. in his book these assemblers are quite large (if you want to print a truck, your machine needs to be at least larger than the largest part or larger than the truck if you are printing fully assembled products) and the economic implications are controlled through a strictly limited number of machines (no open source in his world)
Fionn
not rated yet Apr 15, 2012
This tech is truly amazing, even in such an early stage.

I worry that it will become restricted once it reaches its full potential. Imagine trying to enforce gun control when you can download the design for a fully-automatic AK-47 online and make it in days, if not hours, in your own home! How will patents be enforced if any part or machine can be reproduced? What will happen to our current model of production and sale if, instead of going to a hardware store for a new tool or machine part, or to a retail store for a toy for your kid, or a toaster for the kitchen, you can make one in your garage?

Technology will be our liberation and salvation, if we're not barred access to it.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.2 / 5 (36) Apr 15, 2012
I don't think you are going to make an AK-47 out of extruded PVC plastic any time soon.

Not even in 1000 years.

Not even a million.

But Tards can imagine many Tardly things.

"Imagine trying to enforce gun control when you can download the design for a fully-automatic AK-47 online and make it in days." - Flonn
TheQuietMan
not rated yet Apr 18, 2012
And if the plastic parts are molds? Or forms to make molds?

Why Abuse Someone if you don't have all the answers. It tends to back fire.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Apr 18, 2012
3D printing comes in a variety of ways. There are 3D printers for metals (though not hardened ones), plastics,... even clay.
Combined with circuitboard printers based on conductive inks which are also commercially avaiable they could integrate simple electronics into a printed device (again, this is limited. The resolution of printing circuits is way below what integrated circuits can deliver)

But nowhere does it say that a 3D printer can only have one type of printer head nor whether the printing method cannot be switched up in between. I think 3D printing has a great future ahead of it.
NotParker
2 / 5 (4) Apr 18, 2012
How To Use a 3D Printer to Build an AR Lower and Magazine

http://www.guns.c...151.html
Vendicar_Decarian
0.1 / 5 (35) Apr 18, 2012
Excellent.

"How To Use a 3D Printer to Build an AR Lower and Magazine" - More Death for America
wwqq
3 / 5 (2) Apr 19, 2012
Printing in metal at the moment relies on soft alloys[...]


You can print titanium. Either sintered or fully melted.

It has been used for things like replacement jaws.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.2 / 5 (36) Apr 19, 2012
But can you print titanium and everything else you need to make something complex.

"You can print titanium." - wwgg

3d printing can make some pretty damn impressive plastic toys, and the occasional non-plastic part, but you will never see one print a practical electric motor, or anything complex that requires more than a couple of materials.

Alas the universe isn't just composed of air, earth, fire, and water.
NotParker
1 / 5 (2) Apr 19, 2012
But can you print titanium and everything else you need to make something complex.


Yes.

http://i.materialise.com/blog/entry/i-materialise-launches-dmls-you-can-now-3d-print-in-titanium

eachus
not rated yet Apr 20, 2012
Sorry, no. I've been a scientist and that's just not how it works. Your way may be what you get from the movies (and from condensed viewing of articles on physorg). But the fact that a lot of stuff is happening in some areas (graphene, nanomaterials, solar cells, etc. ) is just the result of a lot of people working in that area. It's pretty much linear with the effort (resources) you put in...

Mostly it's just hard work and perseverance.


Yes, hard work and perserverance are required, but there are advances that have drastically cut down the drudge work portion of research. I'm old enough to remember days spent doing research in university libraries. Today? Search on-line, and download any paper whose abstract looks interesting.

That can cut out days of work, but more important, I don't have to read pre-prints looking for interesting results in my field. If you waited for the journals to be published you stayed behind the boundaries where new research was done.
Sanescience
not rated yet Apr 20, 2012

I don't think you are going to make an AK-47 out of extruded PVC plastic any time soon.
Not even in 1000 years.
Not even a million.
But Tards can imagine many Tardly things.


Come on, you know human psychology better than that.

3D printing will also get a big boost if humans ever get serious about living off planet. You cant expect to bring giant industry infrastructure with you to build all those construction and repair parts.
hikenboot
not rated yet Apr 21, 2012
Vendicar:
"Not even in 1000 years."

"Not even a million"

The interesting thing in that statement is a hidden message. We will be at a technological singularity which will have man advance by 10,000 years this century (year 2038) because technological advances happen on a logarithmic scale(currently we are in the hyperbolic part of that curve). In 2038 we will reach the exponential part of that function, which means what we now measure as 1000 years of advancement will happen in less than a quarter century. The century after 2038 will see advancement by a million years equivalency on a linear scale. So that AK-47 might just be 25-125 years away from now!!!
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Apr 21, 2012
While I do think that we'll be printing complex, integrated machinery within a few decades (though not to the precision or price that can be achieved with dedicated manufacturing) I do think that the talk of a 'singularity' (and the logarithmic scale talk) is just so much hogwash.

You only get such situations when there are no limits, and science is - like everything else - limited.

By resources available
By the manpower available
By the time it takes to figure stuff out and test it
By the ability to bring these things to market
etc.

These things aren't available to an arbitrarily large extent or arbitrarily short time spans. There will be a plateau (and that very soon). Just think how long it has been since the last great advance Have we gone more fundamental than relativity/quantum mechanics? Both almost 100 years old. Have we mastered another force? Nuclear is also nearly a three quarters of a century old.

Great strides have been made. But not to a singularity.