The idea of 3D printing has always held the promise of a future where conjuration is the norm, a future where Star Trek‘s replicator is an actual thing that can make food, beverages or a phaser, just when you need them. Right now, the technology has some way to go before we can produce anything we want from base molecules, but if all you want is drugs, that’s only two decades’ away — five if you’re a pharmaceutical company.
Technically, it’s a “chemical synthesiser”, according to the University of Glasgow team behind the device, but the process it uses is the same as a 3D printer. It systematically squirts out the required base substances, creating individual layers that flow down into each other, mixing and reacting to eventually form the final product. An article by the BBC on the tech notes that nothing “suitable for human consumption” has been created, but it is next on the agenda.
This is the first I’ve heard of 3D printing being used to create organic compounds, rather than elaborate statues or models. I know the therapeutic benefits are enormous, but what if it’s possible to create restricted drugs as well?