Why I Want A 3D Printer (And Scanner)

11 Mar

Cory Doctorow explains that a 3D printer, with a scanner attached, can be thought of as a teleport machine. When I mentione dthis idea to some people, they raised a couple of objections.

The first objection is that in a classic Sci-Fi teleport machine, the actual molecules are supposed to be zapped from place to place. With a 3D Scanner and Printer, it’s not the actual molecules that get transmitted, just a bunch of information about what shape the final object is supposed to be.

My reply to that is “so?” A laser printer doesn’t work by whacking squid juice onto paper with bits of carved wood, but we still call it a printer. A maglev doesn’t burn coal to ram steam through a bunch of pumps, but we still call it a train. We name our technology for what it does, not for how it works.┬áSo if everyone had a 3D printer and scanner, we could “teleport” lego bricks and curtain rings to each other with our printer/scanners and legitimately call them teleporters.

The other objection I heard raised is that with a teleporter, when the object is reconstructed in a new place, the original is destroyed. A 3D printer/scanner would not destroy the original. However, surely that makes a 3D printer/scanner even better than a teleporter? And I can always throw the original lego brick away if I want to stay faithful to the original SciFi concept.

A 3D Printer/Scanner Could Have Saved Me Money Today

A 3D Printer/Scanner Could Have Saved Me Money Today

Today, however, I realised that the real reason I want a 3D scanner/printer is that it’s not just a teleporter, but also a duplicator.

My glasses have plastic arms. Last night, I walked into a door in the dark, and one of the arms broke. I tried superglue, but it didn’t hold. Now I’ll have to get some new glasses, putting me out of pocket by a hundred bucks or so, or more if I get suckered into some titanium alloy super-frame.

If, however, I had a duplicator, I could just unscrew the good arm, scan it, click “flip” then “print”, and presto! A brand-new arm ready to screw back onto my glasses frame!



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  1. Troll :)

    March 11, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    Won’t work because when you click flip, the internal thread for the mounting screw would be inverted too. You could copy and flip the screws I guess :)

  2. Mike H

    March 11, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    You’re right. But with the PC attached, the duplicator is also a transmogrifier! I just need to be careful that the “reverse screw threads” checkbox is unchecked when I click “flip”…