By in Technology

In the future - Plastic plants

As a science fiction writer, I try to think how the future will look. Sometimes I look at big ideas like colonizing other planets, and sometimes I look at little things. It’s these little – and perhaps silly – things I’ll be writing about in this series.

Something that I am a huge supporter of is 3D printing. For those who don’t know, 3D printing is where three dimensional objects are made by “printing” thin layers of material on top of each other. Right now most printers are small and use a type of plastic, but the various companies building them are working on making them bigger, faster, cheaper, and using more types of materials to make more complex objects.

I strongly believe that 3D printers will be a convulsion to the economy as people print things at home instead of going to a store to buy them. Instead of focusing so much on producing items in factories, our economy will be more about procuring resources to feed into the 3D printers in our homes. Which is where this idea comes from.

Much like my last idea about genetically modified trees to produce blocks of firewood instead of fruit, it’s possible to genetically modify something like a tomato plant to produce a plastic fruit instead of something edible. But instead of being cheap ornamentation, you’d pick one of these plastic fruits and feed it into your printer whenever you wanted to print out a new chew toy for your dog. People may have a food garden to feed their family, and a plastic one to supply the material to build things for them.

It’s just an idea.


Other posts in this series:

Adaptive roads

Firewood trees

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Shadi wrote on December 29, 2014, 4:11 PM

Can printed objects actually replace the original? I heard of 3D printers on the Big Bang Theory sitcom but still don't know much about them.

luisga814 wrote on December 29, 2014, 5:03 PM

Wow, are you saying that all of the original thing will be gone? There's no more real thing in the future.

oneoveralpha wrote on December 29, 2014, 5:08 PM

It depends on how complicated the original is. Right now, anything small and made of plastic can easily be 3D printed. Probably a good way to think of them is that 3D printers today are like what computers were in the early 1980s. As all the engineering kinks get worked out of them, there's almost no limit to what they'll eventually be able to do.

oneoveralpha wrote on December 29, 2014, 8:20 PM

What will be the difference between a dog toy made in a factory in China and one you print out at home?

scheng1 wrote on December 30, 2014, 8:54 AM

We might as well genetically modified tables and chairs into meat.

Feisty56 wrote on December 30, 2014, 11:03 AM

Oh great! Just what we need -- a world full of more useless stuff. Sorry, but I'm not seeing this as an improvement in the quality of life for anyone.

Ruby3881 wrote on December 30, 2014, 8:56 PM

This is a superb topic for speculation, Stephen! I love the idea of being able to produce things at home instead of going out to the store for them. And theoretically, that means open source patterns and lower costs for those who can design their own products. Taking the control out of the hands of corporations and putting it back into the hands of people who can design, grow, build their own and barter for what they can't make is a step in the right direction.