Today’s dark satanic mills may soon turn darker still, once we start printing everything in three dimensions. Far less satanic, tomorrow’s mills may be our homes, as ‘economy of scale’ becomes uneconomical and mass production goes niche

The replacements for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation3 seem to be taking so long to appear, who knows, by the time they do arrive, we won’t be buying them, we’ll be downloading and printing them instead.

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For those so poor that they can’t afford the necessary printing equipment (which will cost about the price of four Xboxes) they can (if they know we’ve got a 3D printer) ask us to print one out for them, but Microsoft or Sony will charge us a license fee for the download, so we may need to pass it (and the cost of the printing materials) on (although it should all come to less than buying one in a shop, who may themselves still need to print it out).

We can of course be creative by printing a combined PlayStation and Xbox, but of course we might need to pay three licence fees, amounting to 40% of the cost going to Sony, 40% to Microsoft and to the Google ‘maker’ who put the combination download together for us in their spare time, 20%.

Initially, the CPU, graphics and memory chips for these machines will prove to still be way too detailed to print, even for the next generation of 3D printers, but that’s no big deal, the chips will be posted, to be snugly snapped into place once the unit has been printed.

Ok, I’m kind of joking, nobody really believe this is an imminent thing, but it’s probably not as far off in the future as you might imagine, and the issues, like license fees, are no joke either.

The one thing we don’t think of as being suitable to homeworking and bootstrapping is ‘heavy industry’, but even such bulky things as cars can be made out of lots of small, printable parts.

At the moment, only 3D printers that can make quite small things are relatively cheap, but there’s no reason why we won’t build 3D printers using 3D printers, a fact which will potentially allow us to build bigger, cheaper 3D printers ourselves, which will in turn allow us to build bigger things like cars at home (even including the engines!).

It’ll take longer than buying a car, but more of us will have more time on our hands, if most of the other jobs are gone and printing the occasional printed part may be all we can afford as we gradually put together our future vehicle, Johnny Cash style.

Keeping old cars going in perpetuity is another inevitable consequence of combining the ability to make what we now think of as obsolete replacement parts indefinitely, something which will fit in with the unaffordability of new cars in a time (or place) of greater austerity.

Just like the games console manufacturers, I would be very surprised if the car firms have fully ironed out all the wrinkles in their ‘home printing license’ policies.