Thatha has a post about 3D printing and 3D piracy. Apparently the Pirate Bay now has a section for 3D schematics, for 3D printers. Lest you think this is years away, there are working 3D printers on sale for around $1000, though the model I want costs $1,750. Which is what 2D printers used to cost.
My dad had an interesting bit of sorts sci-fi on this:
Gone were the days of massive manufacturing plants that made lots of identical things that were then transported to far places at great cost and damage to the environment. Instead, goods were now produced through decentralized smart manufacturing processes that were controlled from central design centers at the nodes of massive data networks. Instead of making the same thing in millions of copies, the new manufacturing allowed customer input into the design process in ways that made supply follow demand, not vice versa.
The relentless pressure to drive down transaction costs that emanated from the budget telecom network model that South Asia pioneered stood the region in good stead. Combined with the paradigm of design for extreme affordability that drove corporate strategy in the region in first few decades of the 20th Century, it gave South Asian tortoises an edge over the Chinese hares that had prematurely got locked-in to old style mass production. (LIRNEasia)
I’m not sure I’d go that far, but who knows how far 3D printing will go. The models I looked at make stuff out of lego material or other plasticky gloop. You’re not going to make an iPhone anytime soon. Even with home printing, people still use old Heidelberg machines for magazines and books. The Pirate Bay, however, has a view where people will be printing speakers, car parts, et cetera, and they already have files for toys and what’s labeled as 3D porn. Who knows. I’m pretty sure basic 3D printers will break the $500 mark in a few years, at which point you can imagine how powerful a $2000 printer will be. And this keeps going.