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Fine Print

I’d like to thank everyone who has submitted a comment. In my previous web site, I only had images with no way of leaving comments. It’s fun to get feedback and ideas from other people.

Over the weekend I heard from a blogger at Fabbaloo:

The 3D printing thing will be a really big deal. When people can punch out items at home instead of heading out to the store, a lot of things will be very, very different. The digital rights issue will become important not just for the RIAA/MPAA and their songs/movies, but for *any* manufacturer! I wouldn’t want to be a freight carrier in 10 years….

While I do believe this technology is becoming more and more powerful, there are a lot of issues to solve. We have a long way to go before someone says “Hey can I borrow your couch? I’d like to make a copy”. However, it does seem like it is following the 2D print market example. One post on their blog discussed regional fabbing centers. I used to go to print and copy places until the equipment became so cheap and common I had everything I needed to do it myself. I can see this happening in 3D as well. Having constructed many virtual 3D objects, I would really enjoy being able to get one of them made for real at a reasonable price.

Here’s a do-it-yourself 3D printer at Evil Mad Scientists that fuses sugar to make an object. Not only can you make something cool, you can eat it afterward.

Talking about 3D printing gave me the thought to see what has been happening in robotic house building. Here is another article. I know people in the construction business I would not like to see unemployed. On the other hand, half the cost of a house is in the construction. Here is a video of how a system might work.

Grancrete was originally developed to store nuclear waste. A year or so ago I went to their site and they were just getting started. The idea was, you would just create a shell out of Styrofoam and spray this stuff on. It does seem a lot simpler than having a robot print your house. Looking at their site today though, it seems they are pushing the material more as a coating than as the primary building material.

The links above bring up the vision of a stark, bleak concrete home but in reality I’m sure you could make it normal looking. You could also put this stuff on the outside and make it blend in with the surroundings. I find it surprising it took a subprime mortgage meltdown to lower housing prices, when I expected technology to do it in the same way as many of the things we buy. Personally I wouldn’t mind living in a bleak structure if it cost a fraction of a normal house and I didn’t have to cower in the basement during threatening weather. Not to mention how easy it would be to clean. O.K., that’s silly but I still think you could have a bathroom similar to a dishwasher. Just put soap in the door and twist the knob on your way out.

When I got my first photo printer, it was a dye sublimation printer. I tried things like putting foil in it and I bought a silver cartridge intending to see if it was conductive enough to make circuits. It just seemed like something so accurate could surely be used for all kinds of things. Now they are trying to use ink jet printers to make human organs, but a truly ‘here today’ cool application of printing technology is solar energy.

Nanosolar began producing solar cells using print technology in December. I wasn’t able to get the CNN video at their site to play but the other two seem to have been made before they actually started producing product. I was struck by the phrase ‘cheaper than coal’ used here and here. I guess I was wondering whether it was still cheaper if you included storing the electricity for nighttime use. In one of the videos an engineer says you could sell your excess electricity back to the grid in the daytime but in fact if this technology were truly embraced by the masses you couldn’t sell your ‘excess power’ so what would you do with it? You could have some robot making cool things or you could be nice and power some device to remove CO2 from the air. People can argue all they want about global warming but when it comes down to it, we are tired of external entities like OPEC having control over our lives. Just taking that first joy ride in an electric car powered by sunshine is going to be a liberating experience.

This article discusses how much environmental damage is done making solar cells and according to it, they are still cleaner than other means of producing power. The other thing they mention is what happens when you use solar power to make solar cells. I suppose every solar manufacturer wants to do that.

According to this, the United States is finally willing to accept binding reductions of greenhouse gases. Whether you believe in global warming or not, there is no question we are changing the earth’s atmosphere and acidifying the oceans. I personally feel, altering the earth’s ecosystem and seeing what happens, is not a good experiment. There is an expression, you don’t go the bathroom in your kitchen. I may be paraphrasing here but the future will likely be somewhere between Mad Max and Star Trek. At some point, we will probably reach some point of sustainability. It would just be nice if there was something left besides humans and whatever soylent green we are eating.

While I was looking for stuff on ‘house printing’ I came across Zipblocks. Zipblocks are a kind of Legos for adults. It doesn’t look like they have a manufacturer, funding, or much of a company really, but I like the concept. Here’s a youtube video. The video at their site on building a kid’s playhouse is cool too.

Finally, on a lighter note, here is an article about a kid who crashes computers simply by being near them. My friend Matt runs a consulting business and on more than one occasion has mentioned there are some people who should not go near computers. I can’t say I put much stock in this stuff but I have to confess street lights often malfunction around me. Maybe there are a lot of faulty street lights out there and maybe it’s just one of those things like cold reading where you remember the ‘correct stuff’ and gloss over the incorrect, but it still gives me the creeps when it happens.

One Response to “Fine Print”

  1. Dan Says:

    We will see how happy everyone is when they have to start going without AC.

    The bigger problem is that there are way too many human beings on the planet, no habitat left for any other creature. The US like most of the other more devloped nations don’t really have that problem, but with the influx of third world peoples you really can’t tell.