Replicators are a key part of the Star Trek universe. When you have a device that can create almost anything you could want or need, the compulsion to amass material wealth, or flaunt riches, totally vanishes. What’s the point of trying to keep up with the Jonses in a world like that?

I’ve read a lot into the economic and sociological impact 3D printing currently has, and much of it centres around this idea. With the right raw materials, 3D printers will eventually be sophisticated enough to print clothing, furniture, cars, even food.

That’s all fascinating and exciting. But in the short term, a less trumpeted benefit of 3D printing is its environmental impact. Rather than throwing out devices because of a broken component — ancillary or critical — people are replicating replacement parts in 3D printers.

Take this printed ceiling fan knob by amogharadhya on Thingiverse. Or while I’m at it, Medhi’s [printed lamp connector] in an ElectroBOOM! episode. Both of these devices would have likely made a trip to landfill otherwise. And they’re by no means unique.

It’s premature to say 3D printing will wind back on the breathtakingly short-sighted disposable age started in the mid 20th century. The bulk of these replacement parts are also largely being fashioned from petrochemical polymers. But it’s a start.

[printed lamp connector]: