The sound of a heart beating. That amazing muscle in the left-central portion of your abdomen that works 24/7/365. No need for you to tell it to compress itself roughly 72 times a minute, 4,320 times an hour, 103,680 times in a day. And if it doesn’t do its job… well, you know. But it’s Monday morning, so let us go to a happier place. Well, not just yet, because reality is the second law of thermodynamics does kick in. Things wear out. Entropy is everywhere. Hearts do stop.
Now the happier place: we live in a brave new world where the digital and physical are meeting and amazing things are afoot . That brings us to 3D printing. Unfortunately, most of the doodads printed on a MakerBot are, well, less than amazing. Little trinkets of bunnies, bracelets and bobbles. But groups like Organovo, Autodesk and 3D Systems are pushing the boundaries with biological 3D printing. And now researchers have figured out how to print customized devices for your heart. Not the old one-size-fits-all defibrillators and pacemakers, but custom designed ones, perfect fit replacements. Before we know it, custom valves and arteries will follow. And that is pretty damn cool.
So you ask why is this important to me? Ah, well. If we can customize body parts – hey now keep it out of the gutter – then how long before we are helping our marketing clients design, market and then distribute printable products? The consumer sits at home, orders a dress, pays for it and hits print, then hangs it in her closet for the next dinner party with her print-at-home pearl necklace. Not this year maybe, but all of us should think about that scenario today as we will be asked about it tomorrow.
That day is coming and luck favors the prepared.