3-D Printing: The Next Industrial Revolution

Three-dimensional printers make manufacturing possible at home. Could they spell the end of mass production?

What is 3-D printing?
It’s a revolutionary manufacturing process in which the design for physical objects, from toys to jewelry to machine parts, can be digitally transmitted to a device that makes them out of plastic, metal, or ceramic materials. Once the stuff of science fiction, 3-D printers have rapidly evolved in recent years, becoming smaller, faster, and cheaper. A basic, microwave-size 3-D printer costs less than $1,000, making almost anyone a potential manufacturer. Tonight Show host Jay Leno uses a $30,000 device to print hard-to-find parts for his collection of classic cars. “It’s a bit like when I was a kid and I watched The Jetsons and they’d walk up to a machine and press a button and get a steak dinner,” Leno said. “But instead of a steak dinner, you’re getting an old car part.”

How do 3-D printers work?
Just as a traditional ink-jet printer sprays ink onto a page line by line, modern 3-D devices deposit material onto a surface layer by layer, slowly building up a shape. The process begins with a designer using computer software to create a virtual 3-D model of an object, such as a toy car. Another program slices that model into thin horizontal sections and instructs the printer to lay down an exact replica of each slice. Some printers use a computer-controlled heated nozzle that moves back and forth across a print platform, setting down a layer of melted material. Others use a laser or electron beam to fuse powdered plastic or metal into the required shape. After each layer is completed, the printing platform is lowered by a fraction of a millimeter and the next layer is added, until the object is completed.

What’s the advantage of this technology?
It makes it easier and cheaper for ordinary people to get into the business of making things. Inventors can print a model of their latest creation in a few hours, then tweak it and print again, instead of waiting weeks for a prototype to emerge from a factory. Injection molding, which requires toolmakers to build metal casts into which heated plastic is poured, is only cost-efficient for large-scale production. With 3-D printing, the cost per unit stays the same whether you manufacture one part or one million. “I can cost-effectively make a cellphone cover that is unique to every customer,” said Ryan Wicker, an engineer at the University of Texas at El Paso. “I could build 100 different ones just as cost-effectively as building them all the same.”

What are people printing now?
MyRobotNation.com lets customers design their own toy robot, which is manufactured on a 3-D printer, and the online retailer Shapeways.com sells everything from printed jewelry to desk toys. But the technology isn’t being used just to build novelties. Danish firm Widex prints hearing aids perfectly tailored to the wearer’s ear canal, and San Francisco’s Bespoke Innovations is experimenting with printing custom-fitted prosthetic limbs. Aerospace firms like Boeing and EADS are starting to print complex aircraft parts in single pieces rather than multiple sections. By doing away with bolts and screws that previously held components together, 3-D printing has reduced the weight of certain parts by up to 30 percent, saving fuel costs, said Boeing design engineer Michael Hayes. Eventually, Boeing thinks it might be able to print an entire aircraft wing. “That’s where the industry is trying to go,” said Hayes.

What more could 3-D printing do?
A possible next step is for virtually every home to have its own printer. “Once that happens, it will change everything,” said Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk, which makes imaging software used by designers, architects, and engineers. “See something on Amazon you like? Instead of placing an order and waiting 24 hours for your FedEx package, just hit print and get it in minutes.” Most experts, though, think the Jetsons era remains far off. The desktop 3-D printers available on the market now can only extrude plastic, limiting the objects they can produce. And even if you owned an advanced machine capable of creating whatever you wanted, you’d need a large stockpile of different materials. If your microwave breaks and you want to print a replacement part, “what are the chances that your 3-D printer is going to have the right material?” said industry analyst Terry Wohlers.

How might people use 3-D printers in the future?
Instead of fiddling around at home, we’re likely to turn to manufacturing hubs with specialist 3-D printing machines, “rather like when people go to specialist shops to get higher quality photos printed,” said Richard Hague, an expert on 3-D printing at Loughborough University in the U.K. Once introduced on an industrial scale, 3-D printing could have a profound economic impact. Companies would no longer need to keep huge warehouses filled with goods, as products could be printed locally on demand. And 3-D printing could compel American manufacturers to repatriate production now done abroad. “There is nothing to be gained by going overseas,” said Bespoke Innovations co-founder Scott Summit, “except for higher shipping charges.”

Download, print, aim, fire
Forget background checks and waiting periods. If you have a 3-D printer, you might soon be able to build a gun in your own home. That’s the goal of a group called Defense Distributed, which wants to create downloadable blueprints anyone could use to print a fully functioning firearm. They’re not there yet, but late last year the project’s leader, University of Texas law student Cody Wilson, announced that the group had successfully fired six shots from a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle built with several printed plastic parts. The gun then fell apart. Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) is urging Congress to renew the Undetectable Firearms Act—which bans the production of guns that don’t show up on metal detectors—before it expires at the end of 2013. “When the [act] was last renewed in 2003, a gun made by a 3-D printer was like a Star Trek episode,” he said. “But now we know it’s real.”

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How to Travel the World... While Working!

Vanessa Van Edwards' 6-step roadmap to taking the "workation" of your dreams is an inspiration! Check it out...

"I take a sip of chilled Sauvignon Blanc while gazing at the sprawling vineyards below my balcony. With the sun on my face, my husband and I dig into some fresh fruit from the local farmers' market — crisp pears, figs and goat cheese.

A warm breeze flutters the gauzy fabric of my sundress as we open our laptops to start the workday. It's 1:00 PM in Santa Cruz, Chile, 9:00 AM on the West Coast in the U.S. — and day 17 of our "workation."

Six years ago, my husband (then boyfriend) and I set out to find a way to develop our careers while traveling the world — and without breaking the bank.

People told us we were crazy.

During some of our low points — power outages in China, freak storms in Belgium and lost luggage in South America — we thought that they might be right. But the highlights, such as working from a cruise ship that was sailing through Chilean fjords, have made what we have dubbed our "workations" worth the effort.

To date, we've taken our virtual office to 24 locations, turning the process of traveling while working into a science. Whether you're an independent entrepreneur like me or you hold down a regular nine-to-five (the way my husband does as a marketing manager for an education company), you, too, can see the high-rises of Shanghai, the peaks of Patagonia or the beaches in Singapore — all while achieving your career goals.

The Career Benefits of Workations

Before you decide that taking a workation would be the equivalent of committing job suicide, consider these facts:

* Research has found that multi-cultural experiences and exotic surroundings generate more inspired and creative work.

* Workations decrease stress, which increases productivity, and leads to fewer sick days. Studies show that people with high levels of stress spend nearly 50 percent more on health expenses.

* A study in the Harvard Business Review found that when employees take just one day off per week, they report greater job satisfaction, more open communication with team members and better work-life balance, compared to regular employees.

As long as you do it right, a workation could very well improve your performance. Here are six of my personal tips to help get you on the road to work-travel bliss.

1. Take stock of your job
It's true that workations best lend themselves to certain professions, especially ones that require a lot of computer work. So surgeons or chefs probably won't be able to pull off a workation regularly, if at all.

But if you do have a job that can be done mostly by computer or phone, you should try to fit workations — even just one every year or two — into your life. As for work tasks that need to be done in person, most can be accomplished virtually on a temporary basis, such as face-to-face meetings via Skype or conference calls conducted using speakerphone.

For example, my husband is on work video chat from nine to five, so his team can send questions any time — and ask to see the view from wherever in the world we're working.

2. Prepare before talking to your boss
First, try to schedule a workation for times that work best with your office schedule, such as a slow month. Or look at tacking a workation onto a work conference or some other event that requires travel, so you can spend a few extra days workationing before or after the work trip.

Once you pinpoint a good time, draft a plan to make your workation go as smoothly as possible. It should account for any necessary meetings, time zone differences and your ability to stay in touch. If needed, plan to also work during the hours that you normally spend commuting. And try to propose the idea of a workation to your manager right after you've delivered on an important goal — no boss will grant a workation to an employee who isn't performing well.

3. Choose a vacation-worthy destination
Now for the fun part. If you aren't tied to a specific location due to a work event, then pick a destination that excites you.

Our home base is Portland, Oregon, and my husband and I structure our workations based on locations with the best weather. During the winter we'll travel to the Southern Hemisphere where it's summer, such as South America, Australia and New Zealand. And we spend summers in the United States, Europe or Asia.

Our general schedule is to spend four to six weeks at home, regrouping and conducting in-person work, and then head on a two- to four-week workation. This allows us to conduct necessary face-to-face business, and get out of town.

4. Organize communication methods
Technology is essential for seamless workations, so make sure that your destination has speedy Internet access. And coordinate with your office on which technologies you will need to use to keep in touch, like attending meetings via video (Google offers free video chat) and conducting conference calls on Skype.

If you're in a different time zone, designate working hours each day — and set boundaries with colleagues by letting them know when you will be online.

5. Travel affordably
Workations don't need to break the bank. Consider swapping your apartment with a fellow traveler to save on hotel costs, or check out Airbnb.com and VRBO.com, which feature furnished, short-term apartments and homes for rent.

You can also rent out your own home to cover housing costs and earn extra travel money. (Some cities have made short-term renting illegal, so just be sure to research whether regulations in your cities make this a viable option for you.)

My husband and I pay about $1,200 in monthly housing expenses. However, thanks to the short-term-rental market rates in our Portland neighborhood, we can charge up to $3,200 per month or $108 a night — which covers our rent and gives us an extra $2,000 to spend on flights and other travel costs.

6. Balance work with vacation
Be sure to spend evenings and time on the weekends away from the computer, so you actually get refreshed by your new surroundings. If you are in a different time zone, designate certain working hours each day — and set boundaries with colleagues by letting them know when you will be online.

Although workations can help you feel rejuvenated, it's also important to take full work-free vacations, which are essential for our minds and bodies to rest."

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Is J the sexiest letter?

It certainly seems to be featured in an inordinate number of sex-specific words! According to Bruce Price, less than 1 percent of English words start with J, a minor letter with an odd shape and few other distinctions. Except when it comes to sex. Then J is jumping, one might even say jolly and juicy.

Leadbelly sang about Jumping Judy:

Well, jumping Little Judy, she was a mighty fine girl.
Judy brought jumping to this whole round world

Dylan Thomas liked to get juiced and tell the prettiest girl at the party, "I want to jump your bones."

J has some weird sexual je-ne-sais-quoi mojo, some humor (jests, jibes, jokes, jocularity), some sweetness (jams and jellies, Jujubes and Jujifruit), and some heat (joules).

Mick Jagger just sounds randy. And mint julep just sounds debauched, as The Clovers revealed in the 1952 hit "One Mint Julep":

I didn't know what I was doin'
I had to marry all day screwing....
One mint julep was the cause of it all.

Jugs jiggle; and a johnson is a big one. A hooker's customer is a John. Jack basically means male. The female of some species is called a jenny (e.g., jenny wren). And sexy young girls are jailbait.

The First Lady of the jungle was "You, Jane." Mary doesn't work, does it? While we're in the jungle, a famous lesbian novel was called "Rubyfruit Jungle."

Yes, that's what it means, as does jelly roll. An old blues song pulsed:

Jelly roll, jelly roll, sittin' on a fence
If you doan get some you ain't got no sense
Just wild bout my jelly
My sweet jelly roll.

Sexy women often have J-names: Jezebel, Jasmine, Jewel, Joy, Josephine. If you listen to Fats Domino sing about Josephine, you know she's hot:

Hello Josephine, how do you do?
Do you remember me baby?
Like I remember you
You used to laugh at me and holler, woo woo woo

Just about the only color name with J is Jade, a green stone, a girl's name, and a word with hot subtext. Urban Dictionary says, "Jade is someone who overreacts about a sexually orientated situation. For example, 'Oh my god, my nipples are erected!' 'You're such a Jade!'" Too much of that makes you jaded.

Jockey is all about riding, sometimes riding people. Jubilees are occasions for jubilation. Jamborees are good parties, people jitterbugging, sexy music on the jukebox. Juke originally meant "bawdy" or "wicked."

Hand jive, doesn't that sound dirty? When Johnny Otis (A.K.A. Willie and the Hand Jive) sang about "doing that crazy hand jive," this was serious titillation. Censors believed the song glorified masturbation, at least. That was all they could dare mention in 1958:

Mama, mama, look at Sister Flo
Doing that hand jive with Uncle Joe
When I gave little sister a dime
I said "Do that hand jive one more time"

Jazz was sexual slang before it was music. "Jas" was a Creole brothel where jezebels worked. Music for the clients became known as "Jas music", sometimes "Jass music." When the word "Jass" was printed on posters, the letter "J" was sometimes crossed out for a joke. Promoters knew "ass music" was offensive, so the spelling moved from "Jass" to "Jazz", hence "Jazz music."

A lot of porno words start with J; and words that aren't always porno words move in that direction very quickly: junk, jack, jerk, jag, jam, jimmie, and joint. Sex can hardly be discussed without the word job. "Jack off" spawned "jill off."

A printed J doesn't look sexy. But script a cursive capital J. It's rubenesque and voluptuous. Maybe that's J's secret.

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How You Can Connect Any Two Pages on the Internet in 19 clicks or less

A Hungarian physicist finds that the web's organizing principles aren't all that different from "six degrees of Kevin Bacon."

The outer limits of the worldwide web can feel like an infinite fraying of loose ends and time-sucking wormholes. But the web's estimated 14 billion individual pages and 1 trillion documents are actually connected more efficiently than anyone might reasonably imagine.

Researchers, publishing their findings in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, have discovered that you can navigate from any single page on the web to any other page in a mere 19 clicks or less. The principle is similar to the game "six degrees of Kevin Bacon," except with obscure, fringe-y GeoCities pages instead of, say, Cameron Diaz.

The 19-click threshold was discovered by Hungarian physicist Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, who used computer simulations to get a better grasp of the web's vast, unmapped architecture.

Here's where things get particularly fascinating: Even though the web is growing at an unprecedented rate — some estimates suggest as many as 3.7 million new domains are registered every month — Barabasi claims the magic number 19 will hold true until the last ethernet cable on Earth crumbles into dust.

How can this be? According to Smithsonian Mag, Barabasi argues that the web, while it may seem random, is actually arranged "in an interconnected hierarchy of organizational themes, including region, country, and subject area." In that sense, it doesn't matter how much bigger the web gets, since it will always be organized in a similar way.

How does this organization work? Look at this website's navigation bar up above, for example. Or scroll to the bottom of Wikipedia to see data organized by different languages. The basic organizing principles employed by search engines, aggregators, and other big, connecting nodes like Reddit help to make the web a less messy place overall. In fact, these large internet hubs are what make getting from Point A to Point B possible in the first place — like the LAXs and JFKs of the digital globe.

So go ahead. Give it a shot. We can't guarantee you'll be able to pull off 19 clicks at first blush. But, in the spirit of interconnectedness, we do recommend that you try starting your journey from here :-)

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The 5 Best Reactions to the TIME cover story on Millennials

Millennials like listicles, right? Millennials stopped sexting and posting selfies just long enough this week to notice something curious on the Internet: A story in TIME titled, "The Me Me Me Generation: Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents. Why they'll save us all."

It was written by Joel Stein, a member of Gen X, which invented flannel and Wynona Ryder. The cover features a girl taking a selfie on her iPhone. It's a skill every millennial learns now instead of how to write in cursive. (We made a listicle about it, the millennial's preferred way of consuming information.)

Stein balances negative traits associated with millennials (narcissistic, lazy, stunted) with positive ones (resourceful, optimistic, adaptable) for what Salon's Daniel D'Addario calls an "admirably executed" story. TIME's cover alone, however, was enough to raise the ire of millennials, who took to the internet to do what they do best — talk about themselves:

1. The Awl
The Awl — an online publication popular with millennials — summed up TIME's business savvy in a tweet that linked to some photos, a new-fangled method of driving something they call "traffic" to "content."

2. TIME Millennials
Once millennials are done tweeting, they check Tumblr, just in case someone posted a picture of Ryan Gosling. That's where TIME Millennials was born. It showcases one of the Me Me Me Generation's greatest talents: Creating memes, this time out of a controversial magazine cover:

3. Marc Tracy, New Republic
Marc Tracy, a self-proclaimed millennial, wonders if members of his generation are "stunted" — i.e., not leaving their parents' house, getting married, or having kids — because older generations left them with a shattered economy:

Right now, older generations are in the process of slowly bequeathing millennials a society more "in debt" than ever before: "in debt" in the sense of living on borrowed time, with only future, merely hypothetical promises as collateral — "in debt" ecologically, financially, politically, culturally. At this moment, TIME has decided to focus on the millennials, and to tar them as "entitled" for not feeling totally okay about all of this. [New Republic]
4. Elspeth Reeve, The Atlantic Wire
Reeve takes us on a nostalgic tour of alarmist magazine covers past, from a 1976 New York article by Tom Wolfe titled "The Me Generation," to another TIME special saying this about Generation X:

They have trouble making decisions. They would rather hike in the Himalayas than climb a corporate ladder… They crave entertainment, but their attention span is as short as one zap of a TV dial… They postpone marriage because they dread divorce. [TIME]

The problem with these stories, says Reeve, is that everyone, in every generation, is kind of lost and navel-gazing in their 20s.

"Basically, it's not that people born after 1980 are narcissists, it's that young people are narcissists, and they get over themselves as they get older," Reeve writes. "It's like doing a study of toddlers and declaring those born since 2010 are 'Generation Sociopath: Kids These Days Will Pull Your Hair, Pee On Walls, Throw Full Bowls of Cereal Without Even Thinking of the Consequences.'"

5. Ezra Klein, The Washington Post
Ezra Klein, the media world's very own millennial wunderkind, put his objections to the article in easy-to-digest chart form:

That looks awfully like the priorities past generations had. To many in the media, however, the 1 percent of millennials who think becoming famous is "one of the most important things in their lives" are the only ones that exist.

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