From Easy Bake to Spare Parts

I learned some fascinating facts last weekend about the latest burgeoning industry of 3-D Printing while at my college class reunion in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Remember in the mid 1960’s hovering over your four-year-old who had just popped a delicious chocolate cakette into the new Hasbro Easy Bake Oven? Well, hold onto your diapers, babies, because soon you’ll be able to print your own oven on your Mattel/Thingmaker 3-D printer. Complex technology, sizzling plastic, and kids – what could possibly go wrong?

My tour group hiked from one end of the U of M campus to the other, all the while oohing and aahing over new buildings with even newer names. Walter Library, where I spent many study hours, is now called the Walter Digital Technical Center. And we were told the new Weisman Art Museum caused quite a stir amongst the Twin Cities community due to its total lack of Greek columns.


Most impressive was the Institute for Engineering in Medicine where they work at developing 3-D printing of “something that’s alive.” That’s correct. They hope to produce “smart prosthetics” that will contain the patient’s own cells planted on a flexible plastic scaffold which, after incubation at body temperature, will produce a new organ ready for transplant. Think external ears, new hip bones, epidermal cells to replace burnt skin cells, etc., etc. They have a long, very promising, list.

And on the Humane Society side of things is replacement parts for injured animals. I just watched a video produced by Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary featuring Buttercup the Duck who proudly struts about on his new 3-D engineered duck foot.


My research shows that these new printers are not just the “set it and forget it” variety. But I have faith in our young Generation Z’ers who have grown up on touchscreens and remotes and will soon realize the easiest way to get a new toy is to just push the “print” button. Toymakers beware!

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