Friday, April 2, 2010

Bioprinting and Micro Manufacturing

Later this year, Organovo will begin selling ink-jet organ printers. These devices will literally print out organic compounds to create organs for research and transplantation. Imagine going to the hospital for a heart transplant that was printed -- using your DNA to eliminate organ rejection.

I guess that means I can cancel my organ donor card. I could never shake the irrational fear that EMT's wouldn't save me because they were waiting for my  death to collect spare parts!

But this is only part of a much larger manufacturing revolution. Small scale biological and machine part manufacturing will become the norm.

Right now, desktop manufacturing is real. Today for a few thousand dollars you can buy a 3D printer that will layer plastic composite materials and slowly create your desired shapes. I've seen everything from chess pieces to complex gears printed in a matter of hours.

Because of the costs involved, these printers are currently used only for rapid prototyping of new designs. However, because of the technology adoption curve of it is reasonable to assume that within a decade 3D printers will replace most small scale manufacturing.

Imagine a world where you don't have to wait for the car repair shop to order replacement parts, instead they just print them on-site from the 3D templates provided by the manufacturer. Imagine being able to print replacements for everyday household items when they break. Consider the impact on everything and you suddenly start seeing a world where Star Trek replicators aren't fiction anymore.

This future is coming. Nothing can stop it. How will desktop manufacturing impact your business? Are you ready?

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