Science Fiction fans often feel that they have been promised a lot and little has been delivered with teleportation, flying cars, robots to clean the house and decent tasting microwave meals all long past due according to sci-fi films and TV programs of the 50’s and 60’s. People may be interested to know then that one of the more fantastic seeming technologies has become a reality: replicators. The idea of a replicator is that you can make an exact replica of any item. The process takes a little longer than in an episode of Star Trek where all it took was a quick zap and this replicator technology is actually two technologies. 3D scanning services and 3D printing services are used along with some clever technicians and clever software which are also required but the potential for this technology is massive.
It is 3D printing service providers such as Z Corp who are leading the way, with a background in rapid prototyping. The 3D printing services which they are developing though are become ever quicker, faster and more accurate making other rapid prototyping types obsolete. The 3D printing services they offer are still based on technology that they at least in part are keeping to themselves for the time being but they are well aware that the future is selling these scanners and printers to other businesses and even individuals as the use of 3D printing services spread.
3D printing services have been around for some time but only recently have they got to the levels of sophistication where objects with moving parts can be both scanned and printed with these moving parts. The scanning in fact is more difficult to do so that separate moving pieces are identified by the software than the printing of moving parts.
This replicator technology’s potential comes not only as a replicator but it has an element of teleportation in it as well. This is because the scanner and printer don’t have to be in the same place. The scanner makes a digital copy of an item that can then be sent to anywhere else to be printed or stored for printing later.
There are plenty of places where you may need spare parts urgently and you don’t want to have to have every spare part possible with you or in stock. One of the most extreme examples of this is in space this includes on the International Space Station and in the future potentially even on the moon or other planets. You can’t have every single spare part in stock but with a 3D printing service on board you could print either from a file stored on board or sent to you from earth. Anyone who has seen the film Apollo 13 will remember how they had to make parts with bits and pieces they had lying around but a 3D printer could have saved them a lot of time, though it wouldn’t have made such a good movie.
Back on earth there are still plenty of times when you will want a copy of something located far away, and not only when you are cut off from civilization. You could be in the middle of New York but if the only spare parts for your classic Italian sports car are in Italy you will still have use for a 3D printing service. The manufacturer back in Italy may have already made digital 3D models from their parts or may scan parts on request and then send you the file, for a fee. You can then go to a local 3D printing service and have it printed or you may even be lucky enough to have a 3D printer in your own home eventually.
It may have occurred to some readers that which materials you can print in may be important and often this is the case. Z Corps’ 3D printing services print items using a powdered resin and then a binder solidifies it with great accuracy, parts can also have color added during the process. This creates a very tough resin plastic that can be used for a lot of purposes: even making tools. However printers are also being developed that make parts using metal or even silicon so metal parts, electronics and even products made with a mixture of materials can be made by a 3D printing service.