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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

They are getting nearer to 3D printing

… or so they say:

As IDF came to a close, Justin Rattner, Intel’s chief technology officer, presented a keynote speech in which he explained just how close the outfit was to realizing “programmable matter.” Granted, he did confess that end products were still years away, but researchers have been looking at ways to “make an object of any imaginable shape,” where users could simply hit a print button and watch the matter “take that shape.” He also explained that the idea of programmable matter “revolves around tiny glass spheres with processing power and photovoltaic for generating electricity to run the tiny circuitry.”

What I want is a shower I can step into, only it is not a shower. You just press a button that goes zxzxzxzxzxzxzxz, and ten seconds later you step out, with both you and your clothes completely clean.

The way things are going, soon they will be printing houses!

19 comments to They are getting nearer to 3D printing

  • That’s not really the same thing though Brian.

    To do what you are proposing would take some sort of matter transportation, much like the fabled transporters of Star Trek. Simply ‘beaming’ away anything which wasn’t you.

    A simpler way of achieving the same results would be to enter a sort of symbiotic relationship with tiny nanomachines which consumed dirt and other unwanted materials from your clothes and skin. These machines would then use the materials they accquired from such consumption to either build new copies of themselves or other items which you could order them to ‘print’ from the database stored on your super powerful pocket computer/web interface device.

    I sincerely beleive that such things will be possible in my lifetime.

  • I enjoy my showers too much to want anything like that. Laundry is a different matter, though…

  • llamas

    Huh? We have 3D printing today, by a variety of different approaches. SLS, SLA, FDM, and various others.

    I use an FDM machine almost every day, and it pretty-well matches the description given – hit a print button and watch the material take that shape. Materials are limited and somewhat-specialized, to be sure, but only a short step away from what is being proposed here.

    Non-story, I think . . . . .



  • J


    Poorly written article about a marketing presentation. Why do people fall for this stuff? Assuming Intel manage the minor task of scaling the tech down by three orders of magnitude, then we’ll have something rather like programmable clay.

    The examples of medical modeling are good ones. I can see the use of this as a sort of 3D display mechanism, so that instead of rendering 3D models onto a 2D screen, you can just output them direct into a 3D mutable, programmable substance.

    Nice, but not my idea of magic, however. I’m sure it will have uses in various parts of industry, just as other rapid prototyping technologies do now, but I can’t see it being a disruptive technology that transforms our lives.

    Most disruptive technologies are novel applications of existing tech, or an incremental improvement that causes some usefulness threshold to be reached. Metal rails and steam engines both pre-dated railways by decades. It was only when someone though of mounting one on the other than it became radically disruptive.

    Likewise, the internet existed for years without disrupting anything. It was only when home computers incrementally improved to reach a tipping point of speed, affordability and usability that it became disruptive.

    I am fairly optimistic about nano-tech, but it will be decades before it becomes mainstream.

  • I want a printer, the normal, old fashioned paper printer, that produces it’s own paper and doesn’t run out of it each time you want to print something.

  • Brett L

    Sounds like the first step to Charlie Stross’s utility fog. Although on the downside, billions of dustgrain size microprocessor/sensor arrays powered by wireless power transmission is straight out of A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge. Also, um, cryptography is going to need to take a HUGE leap forward for this to work in a way that doesn’t suck.

  • Jacob: forget paper, what about ink?

  • Kevin B

    Even if they develop it, they’ll never get it into production.

    tiny glass spheres with processing power and photovoltaic for generating electricity to run the tiny circuitry

    “Tiny eh? That means nano doesn’t it? And I bet it’s grey!”

    “It’s GREY GOO!!!! BAN IT!!! BURN IT!!!”

    There are probably a dozen EU regulations already in place that effectively prevent it from reaching the market, and if the EPA doesn’t already have the tools to stop it, Congress will provide.


  • Jacob: forget paper, what about ink?

    That’s the next step. I hate to rush things.

  • The stuff Intel is working on doesn’t need to be nano, just small. There are a number of proposed types of programmable matter, but Intel is, right now, a leader in this, claytronics(Link).

  • Alisa & Jacob, why bother with ink. If you’re making your own paper surely you can regulate its colour? Imagine, no smudging, or waiting for the ink to dry. Anything printed ‘on’ the page would actually be embedded in the page. and if you can regulate the colour, why not regulate what the ink is made of (which you would have to do to change the colour anyway) you could print a circuit board.

  • lucklucky

    3D printing already exist like llamas said.

  • Mandrill: that’s brilliant! Although thinking about it some more, I now recall us all being promised quite a while ago that very soon we will all be completely paperless anyway. Personally I am already there, except for when the government insists on shoving various papers in my face, and forces private businesses to do the same.

  • nick g.

    By now, I thought we’d all have aircars! And personal robots! And we’d be putting down payments on space-shuttles for our Luna Hols!
    Apparently, that’s the NEXT election cycle! By then, we’ll also have honest politicians!

  • llamas

    Regarding ‘paperless’, one of the seminal figures of the banking industry, Frank Abagnale, has been observing for more than 20 years that ‘we’ll have a paperless society, when we have a paperless toilet.’

    Yes, I know, I know – but it’s a figure of speech.
    From the days when I worked on designing ATMs, to the banking machinery I design today, I’ve been continuously promised that I’ll be out of work in five years, when the ‘paperless society’ arrives. Well, I’m still working, and our markets are expanding. There may eventually be a ‘paperless society’, but it won’t be in my lifetime, and probably not yours either.



  • And where’s my jetpack?

    I also want a self-cleaning house.

  • K

    As others have said, the 3D part is already done. The obstacles have little to do with shaping.

    The properties of materials are the key. We use and live inside objects containing many materials. That is not an accident, various materials simply produce better results.

    In contrast the 3D material “spitting” approach works best when using a few soluble materials. That is not a sneer. It is a fundamental problem and very difficult to overcome.

  • nick g.

    I wonder when I can have my copy of Elle delivered to my door? AND a Heather Graham of my very own! And a Kylie, for parties, would be nice….

  • One interesting application for 3-D printing involves spraying human cells onto a matrix to build organs layer by layer. If you use cells cultured from a sick patient, say, one with heart disease, you could be able to “print” a new heart, perfectly suited for transplanting into the patient.