3D Printing On The Cover of The Economist

The Economist February 12th 2011 Print Edition

3D printing is gaining mass-media coverage, and 2011’s favorite buzzed about tech has made the cover and technology feature of next week’s Economist.

(This is one of those rare occasions in which I feel the need to clarify that 3D printing didn’t literally *make* the cover.)

Featured in The Economist’s Technology report, “Print me a Stradivarius, How a new manufacturing technology will change the world” talks about how 3D printing has gone from prototyping tool to product creation machine and introduces major implications for manufacturing, jobs, and intellectual property.

“Just as nobody could have predicted the impact of the steam engine in 1750—or the printing press in 1450, or the transistor in 1950—it is impossible to foresee the long-term impact of 3D printing. But the technology is coming, and it is likely to disrupt every field it touches,” begins the article’s conclusion.

You can read the full article HERE, and when you’re done take a look at the comments.

The online article lead was just published this morning and there’s already a lively exchange of opinions.

Many are excited about the futuristic possibilities.

“This technology is absolutely fascinating! One more step towards the “replicators” of the Star Trek universe!” writes one reader.

Another reader points out the environmental benefits saying “This technology could be a game changer for this century. The effect on reducing transportation costs is staggering; think carbon fuel exhaust and the impact on oil pricing.”

Other commenters remain skeptical, some downright dismayed.

“I can’t but be dubious about its real world applications; there are only so many useful objects that can be created from a combination of ceramics, metal, and glass,” is one reader’s opinion.

Yet another reader points out the opportunity for crime (Something we recently mentioned HERE.) saying “All a person will need to do is download a small 3D graphics file and hit print. Snap together a few pieces, and there it is. Unlimited guns and weaponry for anyone who wants it. … Has the dark side of this technology been thoroughly considered?”

And in today’s lackluster economy and global class divide, employment is always going to be an issue.

“Provided that this new tech follows a roughly Moore-ish curve and they become commonplace, the upper-middle class might benefit by not having to run to the store to pick up a spatula that they can make at home, while the already poor will benefit from the lack of jobs at the spatula factory,” reads the very first comment.