Raise your hand if you remember this line from the 2004 classic “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story”: “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.” This film may not be as inspiring as some of the ones that premiered in 2014, but it does make me think of a most inspiring story from the year now passed. It’s a story that captured my attention and triggered by curiosity in unexpected ways.
It’s a story that simultaneously flew under and way over the radar.
In December NASA announced that it had transmitted a file from the ground to the International Space Station, where Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore turned the file into ratchet wrench made with a 3-D printer. Mind blown! I am not the biggest space enthusiast, however this story got me to thinking about 3D printing in ways I never had before. If you can print a wrench, what else can you do?
If we can print a wrench in space, could we deliver tools and technologies to areas threatened by disaster? Do the same before disaster strikes to protect populations? Deliver products to underserved areas to further access to education, clean water and food? Could we both teach a man to fish and deliver the tools to do so via wireless connections? Cut down on the time and resources necessary to deliver products to projects in the developing world? Cut down on the time it takes for a product to get to market? Reimagine global trade and its impact on communities near and far? Could we print prosthetics and other medical apparatus for use across the globe? What would this mean for civilians? For servicemen? As these printers become more common and powerful, can we imagine 3D printing molecules? Medicine? Specific to space travel, could we streamline the process so that more people could travel farther than ever before? Could we do the opposite of what’s been done here: scan objects in space and send files back to Earth so we could print and study them here?
I’ll follow this story in 2015 with the hope that people smarter than I am are answering these questions and asking even better ones.
Happy 2015, fellow Earthlings!