Can I print my bike please?

I heard a fascinating program on NPR this morning. The program came courtesy of American Public Media. The guest was Jonathan Zittrain, co-founder and co-director of Harvard’s Beckman Center for Internet and Society. He talked about a future where rather than drive to the hardware store you could just print out whatever tool or part you might need for a project. In the interview he talks about printing a bicycle (all plastic) as individual parts, assembling it and riding it!! Isn’t that fascinating?

There are obviously some limitations on what can be printed today, but just the possibility of being able to print a 3D object is fascinating in itself. There are challenges around maintaining Intellectual Property rights and other similar issues that Jonathan addresses, but just imagining a not too distant future of being able to print objects that you can touch and feel and use in daily life is amazing.

Imagine for a second that you order a custom pizza or some exotic dish and you take delivery at the printer!! Wouldn’t this be an awesome boon for those hungry college going students? Mommy, can you send me that awesome pie please? Sure dear, I just sent it to your printer. Yum!!

Love that, Ram


2 thoughts on “Can I print my bike please?

  1. This is very fascinating. I’m not quite sure if you would be able to print out food. It may be a long time until we get there. What are your thoughts on the Intellectual Property Rights that Jonathan addresses?.
    तुम्हारी बेटी अमूल्य 😉

  2. Yes, clearly I was stretching the possibilities when I suggested being able to print “food”, but if you let your imagination fly you can think of all sorts of funky and interesting scenarios. Afterall what was imagined by science fiction writers twenty years back is a reality today. Our forefathers would never have imagined a robotic vacuum cleaner, but we have it now!!

    I would encourage you to listen to the program where Jonathan talks at length about the interesting intellectual property scenarios. One example he talks about is J.K. Rowling taking control of Harry Potter action figure industry by releasing authenticated (with her signature) figurines (that you can print) instead of the possible fake ones. We do need strict laws so congress will have a role to play and so do the 3D printer makers. What if you can program them so that the printer recognizes that someone is attempting to print fakes and it refuses to do so – like a copier recognizing that someone is attempting to copy a currency note and refusing to copy. I am sure a lot of discussion and experimentation will eventually result in a model that works for both the IP owner and the cosumer. It has to be a balanced approach.

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