As unbelievable as it might sound, in our lifetime, housing structures will be “printed” on the moon, using moondust as “ink.”
Today, it’s possible to “3D print” food, meat, body organs, working motorcycles and guns. The complexity of what’s possible to “print” is increasing exponentially daily. Machines are printing smaller and smaller, at the nano-molecular level (click here for a video of a spaceship “printed” on a hair), as well as bigger and bigger. The first 3D-printed, two-story house will even be completed next year.
Lunar material will be mixed with magnesium oxide. “This turns it into ‘paper’ we can ‘print’ with,” explained Enrico Dini (a.k.a The Man Who Prints Houses), one of the lunar printing project’s architects. “Then for our structural ‘ink,’ we apply a binding salt which converts moondust material to a stone-like solid. Our current printer builds at a rate of around 2 meters per hour, while our next-generation design should attain 3.5 meters per hour, completing an entire building on the moon in a week,” he told SpaceTradeMagazine.com.
This is a process called “terrestrial 3D printing.” In the past 18 months, 3D printing conversations have evolved from “industrial 3D printing” to “biomaterial 3D printing” to “terrestrial 3D printing.” Now: mercurial 3D printing, which is printing changeable, adaptable objects.
Green 3D Printing and Green Material Innovation
3D printers work by spraying a material, today most commonly plastic, layer upon layer to build up a structure, like layering bricks to form a wall. However, there are over 1,000 different kinds of materials that can be 3D printed, ranging from metals to human tissue. Material innovation for 3D printing is one of the most exciting and fastest growing sectors to be in, and this has implications for marketers.
Material innovators with a “green” touch are exploring how the materials around us – sand, dirt, even poop – can be turned into the raw ingredients that become the “ink” to “additive manufacturing.” Raw sewage, turned into biodegradable materials for 3D printing manufacturing, puts an entirely new spin on reducing, reusing and recycling.
While 3D printers enable us to make more “stuff,” the stuff of which it’s made will be found around us (in nature) and easily recyclable. Expect to start seeing 3D printer material recycled like printer ink cartridges.”Recyclebots” in our homes will turn our trash into 3D printing materials, and brands will differentiate with “recyclebot-friendly” packaging.
The Disruptive Power of Green 3D Printing
In our recent trend report, “8 Exponential Trends that will Shape Humanity: The Rise of 3D Printing,” we discuss how 3D printing is changing how we manufacture products, and simultaneously shaping our economy, distribution, social and education systems, as well as redefining “green” products and “green marketing.”
As the cost of 3D printers drops (now priced on par with an Ink Jet printer), hyper-local in-home micro-manufacturing will boom. “Creative dilettantes” will turn into “homestead industrialists.” Expect homes to shift from “cocoons” to “incubators,” as 3D printers transform living rooms into labs. (Just imagine the implications this has on copyright and intellectual property protection.)
Broke it? Print it. Lost it? Print it. Need it right now? Print it. Why would we need Amazon to ship it, if we can print it? Just imagine how hyper-local manufacturing will change retail and distribution, and the eco-impact and energy savings of brands and consumers if there’s no longer need for shipping, warehousing or driving to a store.
A positive outcome of 3D printing is that increasing consumer awareness and appreciation of 3D printer materials should result in consumers seeking out new material options. With increasing choice and discernment will come cleaner and greener material options; subsequently, expect a rise in ingredient branding.
Flash forward to the year 2027: The label on the new moon’s settler’s Champion sweatshirt reads “Printed with Moondust”.
P.S. (i.e., provocative statement, not postscript)
Is “3D speak” the new Latin? Will technology literacy further divide society? Those who “speak 3D” will have an oppressive advantage over those who don’t, given that thousands of schools in disadvantaged communities don’t even have computer labs, let alone 3D printer labs.