You might have noticed, the world is in rapid evolution right now, and as a result we’re getting used to technological gadgetry that not so long ago would have seemed like something straight out of a science fiction movie.

Technological change seems to be coming thick and fast these days. It wasn’t that long ago that a video machine, PC or mobile phone seemed a wondrous thing, but now we have smartphones, smart TVs, inbuilt sat nav, home automation systems, Siri, real-time communication with people on the other end of the world and apps that will tell you anything from the constellation you’re looking at to where the airliner flying overhead is headed.

Indeed, we’ve come a long way from the days when floppy disks, cassette-operated Commodore computers, CDs and even MP3 were considered the cutting edge of technology, and with it comes a growing array of digital gadgetry to guide our daily lives.

The time may come when we won’t consider even the most mundane action without first consulting online references or using a digital crutch, but in this transition phase between a mechanical/analogue world and a digital one, it all seems pretty wondrous and exotic. Here is a selection of some of the upcoming ‘next gen’ tech trends about to hit a virtual store near you.

3D Printing

Though we’ve been hearing about it for a while now, 3D printing still has a somewhat fantastical, exotic feel about it. Perhaps it’s the name that throws us or maybe it makes us think of Captain Kirk materialising out of thin air after being famously ‘beamed up by Scotty’, but it’s one that’s taken a little while to take root in the popular imagination.

Now if it was called something like ‘layered moulding’ I think we’d understand it a little better, but the idea of producing all manner of diversely shaped objects by converting the otherwise largely horizontal printing process into a vertical framework makes it somewhat hard to picture and therefore counter-intuitive.

In reality 3D printing is neither that odd nor that new. The process consists of the shaped layering of a material – initially mostly plastic – until a three-dimensional object is created.

The source of the shape is a ‘CAD’ computesrised 3D model that transfers the details of the image to the printer and thereby ‘instructs’ the printing of it from a sequence of patterned layers until the desired product emerges from the final layer in this bottom-to-top method of manufacturing.

Many trace the conceptual origins of this production type to the woodblock printing that first emerged in third century China, but the first direct link comes from 1981, when Hideo Kodama of the Nagoya Industrial Research Institute in Japan pioneered the first 3D printing process…

Words Michel Cruz

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