Star Trek, One Step Closer

I’ve written a number of posts about 3D printing because it has so much potential for creating a new kind of world where things aren’t such as concern any longer. If all you really need are some raw materials to print out anything you need, the overstocking of stuff really isn’t a concern any longer. You will have only those items you need because spares of anything aren’t a problem. That’s how things were on Star Trek. People seemed less inclined to hoard anything because there simply wasn’t a reason to do so. That’s why a recent ComputerWorld article, How astronauts 3D printed a wrench they needed in space, grabbed my attention.

The article points out another use for 3D printing, which is fine, but there are a lot of articles about 3D printing now so that’s not really the focal point. The focal point for me is that the printing process met a practical need in an environment where the need couldn’t be met in any other way. The kicker is that the astronaut in question really wanted a ratchet to go with the wrench and they were able to send him one! In reality, the printer received the plans for the ratchet and simply printed it out like any other part.

The essence of the article is about printing things in space that the astronauts need to accomplish useful tasks. At one time, not long ago, if an astronaut didn’t take something along, it wasn’t available. However, read the story in more detail and you find out that the setup recycles the old plastic devices. This means that an astronaut can create a wrench when needed, discard it, and use the same plastic to create something else. That’s the principle behind the replicator in Star Trek. Old things were remade into new things. So what we’re seeing is science fiction becoming science fact right before our eyes.

The future holds the promise of allowing people to perform tasks in a creative way without having to worry nearly as much about resources. The use of 3D printing will eventually make it possible to create anything needed anywhere. Just how long it takes us to move to the next step will be interesting. There is still a lot of low hanging fruit to pick on the technology tree, but eventually we’ll need to conquer the harder issues of being able to produce complex items at the atomic level. That step should prove interesting indeed. Let me know your thoughts about 3D printing at


Author: John

John Mueller is a freelance author and technical editor. He has writing in his blood, having produced 99 books and over 600 articles to date. The topics range from networking to artificial intelligence and from database management to heads-down programming. Some of his current books include a Web security book, discussions of how to manage big data using data science, a Windows command -line reference, and a book that shows how to build your own custom PC. His technical editing skills have helped over more than 67 authors refine the content of their manuscripts. John has provided technical editing services to both Data Based Advisor and Coast Compute magazines. He has also contributed articles to magazines such as Software Quality Connection, DevSource, InformIT, SQL Server Professional, Visual C++ Developer, Hard Core Visual Basic, asp.netPRO, Software Test and Performance, and Visual Basic Developer. Be sure to read John’s blog at When John isn’t working at the computer, you can find him outside in the garden, cutting wood, or generally enjoying nature. John also likes making wine and knitting. When not occupied with anything else, he makes glycerin soap and candles, which comes in handy for gift baskets. You can reach John on the Internet at John is also setting up a website at Feel free to take a look and make suggestions on how he can improve it.