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What if you could download and print a physical component directly to your printer?

The Pirate Bay (TPB) is confident that this will soon be a reality.

The website just announced it is supporting a new type of file on its BitTorrent site—“physibles.” TPB uses this term to describe “data objects that are able (and feasible) to become physical.” Among the current TPB physible files available for download on the site are a Chevelle hot-rod 3D model and a clock.

TPB is the 75th most visited website in the world and has more than 5 million registered users. So for many in the tech world, the website’s actions carry weight and may indicate trends to come.

What 3D downloading would mean for the world of commerce

The Pirate Bay has declared that 3D downloading comes with some benefits for society. In fact, TPB shared on its company blog that “we [TPB] believe that in the nearby future you will print your spare parts for your vehicles. You will download your sneakers within 20 years.”

But the implications of this technology go far beyond new sneakers. TPB predicts, “no more shipping huge amount of products around the world. No more shipping the broken products back. No more child labor. We’ll be able to print food for hungry people. We’ll be able to share not only a recipe, but the full meal. We’ll be able to actually copy that floppy, if we needed one.”

If TPB is right, and consumers can just print products from the comfort of their own home, what will happen to the establishments of the manufacturing industry—like factories and plants?

Sound like a bunch of sci-fi nonsense?

A world without factories and assembly lines seems unfathomable. And, to be honest, you probably don’t need to worry about the factory near you closing its doors anytime soon. 3D printing may never replace the need for manufacturers, and printing and assembling your own goods may be a long time away from mainstream acceptance. And the fact the TPB has a controversial reputation for its loose IP protection policy and anti-copyright stance may further skepticism about the new technology.

But it’s worth noting that the technology needed to download and print 3D files already exists. The MakerScanner, for example, is an open source 3D scanner that digitally records 3D objects and sends the information for print using a MakerBot 3D printer. RepRap is another open source ‘self-replicating’ 3D printer capable of producing plastic objects. You can watch a video of how the RepRap works here.

Time will tell what the future holds for 3D downloading

As with the introduction of any major new technology, there are a lot of questions still unanswered, and we are just entering the infant stages of 3D downloading technologies.

Nonetheless, TPB seems confident in declaring, “the future of sharing is about physible data.”

If 3D downloading really is on the horizon, what do you think the short term and long term ramifications might be?

UPDATE (2/6): A team of researchers from Belgium and the Netherlands has successfully replaced an 83 year old woman’s jaw with a 3D printed model of a prosthetic jaw. Read more here.

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About the Author

Alyssa Sittig
Alyssa played an instrumental role in the development of the Arena Blog and social media channels from 2011 to 2012. Joining the team with a background in public policy, Alyssa ... Read More 

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