Once upon a time the word we’d use for automated electronica that build things would be “factory”. Lately, a different term is being bandied about: a “3D printer”.
It does what you’d expect them to do: make stuff. Could be The Next Big Thing, some say, triggering a personal manufacturing revolution. The future of the economy. Houses and even aircraft can be “printed”. New Scientist magazine reported last year on a flying drone that took just a week to go from being to produce - designed, then printed, then zooming above the ground.
There’s debate over their worth, though. Printers are hardly the world’s most reliable appliances. They always get jammed. Always hungry for ink. And there’s concerns 3D printers could be used to manufacture things people don’t like. Guns, for instance.
A new consumer-friendly device called the MakerBot Replicator 2 hit the US market at the weekend. A nice read from Slate on the Steve Jobs figure behind them here. What do you reckon about these gizmos, Punchers? Would you need one? What would you print?
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We live in a time where we can ask our phones questions and they can answer them. So why can’t robotic planes fly us around?
The director of the Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation at the Queensland University of Technology, Dr Duncan Campbell, is projecting that freight planes will be flying around Australia without pilots in the cockpit in the next decade. “There’ll still always be a human in the loop, although it might be more like a mission commander on the ground rather than a pilot,” Dr Campbell said.
You can imagine passenger planes wouldn’t be too far behind. Dr Campbell speculated to The Punch yesterday they might take another decade or more to start appearing—if people were comfortable with them, that is.
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