Recently I read an article titled A Lack of R&D May Kill the 3d Printing Gold Rush by Ashlee Vance on BloombergBusinessWeek (who names these things nowadays?). The article points out that ‘3D printing has no Moore’s law’ and that this will result in less progress, or more shallow, less of a quick buck for investors.
The assumption that faster and more powerful chips and circuits are the only reason personal computing was worth investing in just rings false to me. My company does software for a living and I can tell you that the best programmer can do miraculous things with a meager 386 running Linux in server mode. Mr. Moore need not apply.
This is an antiquated view of computing, isn’t it? Think about it. When I can summon hundreds of thousands of ‘cores’ on Google’s infrastructure to process my problem, do we really think the machine on which we make that request really needs an SSE4 instruction set capability on the chip, or an FPU that is higher than last year’s model? I’m playing with some historical computer trivia here but I think you get my point.
For digitizing the atoms, rather than the bits, as 3D printing does, perhaps we need a new law, or maybe I just don’t know the name of it. This law would describe the behavior of a technology that 1) facilitates creating an object cheaper as it increases in complexity; and 2) permits just in time delivery of personalized products without historical customization costs, and unleashes 3) significant customer satisfaction. Maybe we could call it Bre’s Law?
To me the beauty of the universal logic tool (the personal computer) isn’t Moore’s Law (do we seriously think OS bloat was a good thing?). Instead it is the kids (like me) who got them in their hands at age 12 and put in the thousands of hours learning how to use them to do amazing things. The most amazing thing about the personal computer revolution was that it was something that created a wave of new capability for our species.
I believe 3dp can have a similar impact in human terms. Vance may be lucky enough to be around when this is realized and perhaps write about it then. For now I think there is a point that is missing.
It isn’t about building a holodeck but making the idea of a holodeck real in the minds of millions of 12 year old innovators. They are the ones that will create their own laws that will drive the digital manufacturing revolution to places we have yet to fully imagine.