/ Technology

Tech in 2030 – 3D printing and rechargeable kids

Robot hand touching human hand

The rate at which technology’s advanced over the last century has been supersonic. Just contemplating all the life-changing inventions we’ve enjoyed makes my head spin – what will we be using in 20 years time?

Last week Phillida Cheetham shared our financial forecasts for 2030. Today I want to look at the technological innovations we could look forward to.

Our Consumers in 2030 report explores current technology trends, in order to postulate the kind of tech we might be relying on in 20 or so years from now.

The future of 3D printing

First up, it’s my favourite – 3D printing. At the moment, the 3D printing scene is centred on a growing number of enthusiastic amateurs, but in 2030 they could have a major impact on our daily lives.

We could see the development of small-scale, UK-based production houses that use 3D printer technologies to ‘print’ household goods and spare parts on demand. How about using a ‘Mo. Mo. Molecule scanner’ to scan objects in order to reprint or transform them in a professional 3D fabrication lab?

Why a professional lab? Well, even though home printers might become all the rage, a professional 3D printing production house would ensure more reliable quality. Otherwise, the rise of home printers could come with a gaggle of legal battles over faulty, dangerous or even fraudulent printed products being sold.

That aside, 3D printers might launch the next fashion frontier, with every teenager wanting a 3D printer to create their own personalised objects. And if their disposable income is low, being able to refresh their belongings would certainly be a boon.

To take this a step further, we may even see large pharmaceuticals launching organ printing services to ease the shortage of replacement organs for an ageing population. Still, on-demand organs might sound too good to be true.

The future of charging our gadgets

Now to move on to something a little less bombastic – what does the future hold for charging our gadgets?

Like me, I’m sure you’re fed up with being hit by energy price hikes. And in 2030 we’ll be spending even more of our money on electricity and gas bills, so a development boom in energy harvesting tech could be very much appreciated. At the moment this type of tech is in its infancy, but with Princeton University researchers creating a flexible material that harvests energy when stressed, it’s not difficult to imagine where this might go.

How about kids charging their gadgets and game consoles through physical outdoor activity? In our report, we call this the ‘Rechargeable Kids’ system. Your children would wear ‘Super Genius Trainers’ to generate power by playing – they could then use this power to run their devices ‘off-grid’ at home. In turn, this could encourage your kids to balance the time they spend in virtual worlds with time spent playing in the real one.

On Twitter, haskipsey wants to see energy generated without as much human input:

‘Self-recharging batteries, by combination of movement, interaction with light, microwaves and utilisation of ring main system.’

So, a rechargeable kids system and 3D printing – that’s just two tech ideas for 2030. I’m sure there are many others you’d like to share, such as robot butlers or something more realistic. Do you think we’ll be 3D printing in 20 years time? How will we be charging our gadgets?

hoppingpinkrabbit says:
12 February 2013

I’d like to think that one day, scientists will work out a way to bottle up and reuse all the wasted energy we seem to have. Light energy is already used (Solar) water energy is already used (hydroelectricity) but what about the energy from heat in the summer, or ice in the winter? What about energy burnt from people attending gym classes or running first thing in the morning?

It would be an excellent anti-obesity campaign or to boost the NHS/private healthcare- and, (the really gross idea) what about using the energy from body fat or other cancers cut out after surgery; maybe one day there will be a way we can get our own back on the very same things to which we lose so many people around us.

Items made by 3D printing are only as good as the plastic used which to date has been pretty poor. The ability to manufacture any precision or stressed components let alone whole assemblies is a long, long way off.

“At the moment, the 3D printing scene is centred on a growing number of enthusiastic amateurs”

It isn’t, it just that the media have found out about it now that it’s become more accessible, rather like they did the internet about 25 years after that was invented.

3D printing has been widely used for some years especially in places like workshops and design studios for making models and prototypes.

I’ve been keeping an eye on 3D printing since Patrick mentioned it last year. I was rather dismissive at the time, but there is obviously a great future, particularly in art and craft design.

From my limited knowledge of polymer science and manufacture of plastics, I do not see that 3D printing can currently be used in the home to make precision tough plastic components. There are also safety considerations – most plastics incorporate plasticisers that are volatile and toxic, and these are vital components. That’s not a problem in industry or laboratories, where hazardous materials can be handled in a safe way.