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3D Printers Can't Revolutionize Industry All On Their Own: Neil Gershenfeld
Science | May 22, 2013

3D Printers Can't Revolutionize Industry All On Their Own: Neil Gershenfeld

"3D printing is a strange meme that is being misrepresented in the press by people who don't actually use it," science speaker Neil Gershenfeld tells BBC News. In the article, Gershenfeld (Director of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms) argues that despite being a beneficial technology, 3D printing won't be spurring a manufacturing revolution all by itself. He says the technology is interesting enough, but it is limited in application. There are many other machines that he's been experimenting with in his Fab Labs that have much wider applications than 3D printers, he believes. What does he think will actually change the industry? As he says in the BBC post, "a computer-controlled laser cutter, a numerically-controlled milling machine for making big parts, a sign cutter, a precision milling machine and programming tools for low-cost high-speed embedded processors." A suite of digital machines, he explains—with the potential to personalize fabrication—are the real driving forces of change.

"So 3D printing is not—according to one of the prophets of the new personal manufacturing age—going to change the world on its own," the BBC writes of Gershenfeld's prediction. Eventually, Gershenfeld hopes to condense the size of his digitally driven machines and make them practical and affordable for home use. This would usher in the ability for personal fabrication to get really personal. These machines would expand beyond labs and manufacturing companies and into the homes of those wishing to acquire the ability to design and then produce their own customized products. One day, his Fab Labs will bring complex machines that combine consumer electronics with industrial tools so we can make (almost) anything from the comfort of our living room.

In his presentation, "Bits, Atoms and Disruptive Technology" and in his wildly popular MIT classes—"How to Make (Almost) Anything" and "How to Make Something that Makes (Almost) Anything"—Gershenfeld provides a witty, insightful, and eye-opening peek into the technological advancements that are shaping our world. The goal of his work in personal fabrication? To bring together the best features of the bits of new digital worlds with the atoms of the physical world. One of the most innovative scientists in North America, he's been featured by the White House, The Smithsonian Institution in their Millennium celebrations,The New York Times and The Economist, to name a few. In his speeches, he explores the new technologies that are changing the economy around us—and, our lives in the process.
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