The Future of 3D Printing: Promise and Peril of a Machine that Can Make (Almost) Anything

Friday, 14 February 2014
Regency D (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
Hod Lipson , Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
3D Printers – machines that can automatically fabricate arbitrarily-shaped parts, layer by layer, from almost any material – have evolved over the last three decades from limited and expensive prototyping equipment in the hands of few, to small-scale commodity production tools available to almost anyone. It’s been broadly recognized that this burgeoning industrial revolution will transform almost every aspect of our lives. But where will this technology go next? We can look at the evolution of additive manufacturing technologies’ past, present and future as a series of milestone in humans’ increasing control over physical matter. First, the unprecedented control over the shape of objects, where manufacturing complexity is free. Second, the control over new multi-material composition of matter with unprecedented fidelity, creating new kinds of materials. The third episode of this journey will be the control over active behavior, where we move from fabricating passive parts to printing active, integrated systems. Our ultimate test is to print a robot that will walk off the printer, batteries included.