Finnish designer and creative director of 3D systems, Janne Kyttanen, has recently posted a video outlining a possible future where 3D printing is embedded in our lives in a completely new way. He asks us to imagine a world where everything we own – in this case specifically our vacation luggage – is stored as nothing but computer code. Instead of carrying our belongings with us on holiday, the idea is we print it all out at our destination on the hotel’s guest room 3D printer.
It’s a fascinating idea and one which really does turn our whole consumption and waste oriented world upside down. We already have started the shift away from owning things in small but definitive ways, for example millions of people now rely on cloud based music services like Spotify, Pandora and iTunes for their music collection instead of owning the tapes, CDs or vinyl, and this trend looks like it’s accelerating in all sorts of ways through the Internet.
The rise of the 3D printer, however, takes this whole idea to a completely new level. To see it for what it is, we need to move beyond the current level of technology and see exactly where this is heading. The technology became real for us back in 2009, when we reported on Jay Leno’s use of 3D printing to re-create obsolete car parts for his growing vehicle museum, and progress has been swift and startling.
We now have printers which can make houses, chocolates, UAV drones, exoskeletons and later this year cars, but it’s not the range of potential objects which is interesting, but more the possibilities for a change in how we consume and recycle. Kyttanen’s vision is of a world where we produce what we need, when we need it, rather than relying on owning and moving stuff around, and there’s a definite appeal to this kind of lifestyle.
But the implications for recycling and reusability are also staggering. Instead of ‘owning’ stuff and throwing it away on landfills every year, living in a 3D printed world will mean that we can simply break down and recycle much of what we use when we’re done with it, thereby reducing our consumption footprint to a fraction of what we have today.
Products like the Filabot (above) – and the Reclaimer – already prove that we’re moving in the direction of recyclable extrusion materials for 3D printing machines, and it’s just the first of what we expect will be many more devices aimed at making printing cheaper and more accessible to the general public. And before you dismiss this all as nothing more than science fiction, take a look at the Cubify site – and in particular its Sense scanner tech – to see how far the technology has come in this short period of time.
Right now we absolutely have the ability to 3D print a simple vacation outfit of suitcase, handbag, shoes, dress and accessories, albeit at a steep price, but it’s definitely only a matter of time before this list extends to a lot more, and we really will be within sight of an on-demand, instant recycle society. Our planet will probably thank us.