The most recent SpaceX commercial resupply mission has something interesting on it for the International Space Station, a 3D Printer. They’re going to use it to make replacement parts, so they don’t have to wait for them to arrive on later resupply missions.
But I have a question. Is this really a printer? To me, printers print text or pictures onto paper. A 3D printer doesn’t print ink or use lasers to create images on paper. It actually uses a material that is chosen for the object and thin slices are laid on top additively to create the object. This technology has been around for around 30 years and uses a CAD software to create the objects. But is this printing?
It’s more like assembling or manufacturing, actually. But in a way it’s replicating existing objects based on a plan stored in a computer. Doesn’t that sound familiar? In Star Trek, replicators have been used since The Next Generation, and they’ve been replicating things using a similar principle, except they do it atom by atom. This does it in a more crude way, layer by layer. But still, I think this is a rudimentary replicator. So why keep calling it a 3D Printer? Let’s call it a Replicator! Who’s with me?