It is well known that paper is not the only printer-friendly material and that, thanks to modern computer technology, there is no need to stay in the rather limiting world offered by the first two dimensions.
You will recall, for instance, the plastic gun that was built, fired and said to be undetectable by conventional scanning machines. It was created by a 3D printer.
But what about cars? If you saw the most recent Bond movie, Skyfall, you might have cringed at the sight of an Aston Martin DB5 apparently being riddled with bullets. But you’d have relaxed rather more had you known that it was, in fact, not merely a scale model but a printed one at that.
But what about a real car – something you can get in and drive? You couldn’t print one of those, surely?
At the recent Detroit motor show, printed car pioneer Local Motors did just that, printing a car on its stand with the aim of driving it away at the end of the show. And just to prove that they weren’t kidding, they showed one they’d made earlier…
The theory behind the 3D printed car is so compelling that it forces you, at least at first, to put to one side some of the thornier issues facing those wishing them to become a commercial reality.
“It’s all about the tooling,” says the positively evangelical Elle Shelley, Local Motors’ chief marketing officer. “Guess how many parts this car has,” she insists, pointing at the car they call the Strati. “Three hundred?” I hazard, somewhat hopelessly.
“Forty-seven,” she replies. “A conventional car has 35,000.” Yikes.
If the Local Motors dream comes true, it will work like this: the world will become populated by so-called micro-factories, all printing cars that are not only crowd funded but also crowd designed.