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Improving 3-D Printing By Copying Nature

samzenpus posted 1 year,24 days | from the build-it-better dept.

Technology 128

An anonymous reader writes "Biologist Janine Benyus is excited about the 3-D printer revolution and she thinks it can be improved by modeling natural processes. 'Benyus, who wrote Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature and co-founded the institute Biomimicry 3.8, would like to see a transition in manufacturing—from big, smoke-belching factories to small, clean desktop printers. The key to making it truly sustainable, she said, lies in mimicking how a natural ecosystem functions. "Nature uses life-friendly chemistry, which is nontoxic and water-based, and which does not require high heat," said Benyus. In contrast, most of the products people use today have been forged in industrial-size furnaces, with a plethora of toxic solvents. A potato chip bag may seem like a simple item, but it is actually made up of several thin layers of different materials, one to make it strong, one to make it airtight, and so on.'"

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Nature uses life friendly.. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#44212437)

"Nature uses life-friendly chemistry, which is nontoxic and water-based, and which does not require high heat." So where is the water-based oil, coal and natural gas? What a load of hooey.

Re:Nature uses life friendly.. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44212803)

They are called "sugars" and "vegetable oils". Plants and algae make them from water and carbon dioxide.

They can be used as is or further transformed into alcohol or biodiesel, respectively.

Re:Nature uses life friendly.. (4, Informative)

Turbio (1814644) | 1 year,23 days | (#44212827)

Actually, a good part of the chemistry occurs in or around oil based membranes.
And biological toxins are all around us. I am not talking just about toxic fungi, pathogenic bacteria or poisonous animals. The very potato chips she mentions are toxic if eaten uncooked, as well as soya beans and many others. Those compounds prevent the plants from being eaten. So we cook our foods to inactivate toxic compounds (and kill pathogens). There exists an arms race out there in the wild, and she's a biologist, she knows how it works.

Re:Nature uses life friendly.. (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | 1 year,23 days | (#44212919)

Only green parts of uncooked potatos are toxic.

Re:Nature uses life friendly.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44213029)

Heated potatoes create a class of toxins.
http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/mar2005/2005-03-07-05.html [ens-newswire.com]
GENEVA, Switzerland, March 7, 2005 (ENS) - The chemical acrylamide formed unintentionally when starchy foods such as potato chips are cooked may be of public heath concern since it has been shown to cause cancer in animals, an international expert panel said Friday.

"Nature uses life-friendly chemistry, which is nontoxic and water-based,

Ricin anyone?

Re:Nature uses life friendly.. (3, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213217)

Is there anything that hasn't 'been shown to cause cancer in animals'?

Re:Nature uses life friendly.. (1)

plover (150551) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213447)

Is there anything that hasn't 'been shown to cause cancer in animals'?

Yes. They've found that death stops cancer from attacking any animal. Side effects include an elevated risk of mortality, including death.

Re:Nature uses life friendly.. (1)

tsa (15680) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213795)

No they don't. You only die once, you know.

Re:Nature uses life friendly.. (1)

dbIII (701233) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213925)

Arsenic.

Re:Nature uses life friendly.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44213261)

Depends on the particular breed of potato. The ones most commonly used in agriculture today have very low levels of solanine, although definitely not zero. There are varieties that can have much levels in the tubers, even if not green.

Re:Nature uses life friendly.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44214209)

Good luck with that. There's not a perfect correlation, and it's quite possible for potatoes to become toxic without any noticeable green colour. Also, cooking at normal temperatures won't get rid of the toxins, although deep frying probably will.

Re:Nature uses life friendly.. (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | 1 year,23 days | (#44212935)

How this is "Interesting", I don't know. The hydrogen in the hydrocarbons came from water.

Re:Nature uses life friendly.. (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213897)

Nature uses life-friendly chemistry because (a) life evolved in the geologically given chemistry, so life certainly can cope with that, and (b) the life-produced chemistry is life, and life that kills itself won't survive long.

Note that life does explicitly not always produce chemical substances which is non-toxic for other life forms than itself; if you don't believe it, try to eat deadly nightshade.

Re:Nature uses life friendly.. (1)

flyneye (84093) | 1 year,23 days | (#44214593)

Well, when they find them, we can all stay at home and print our own potato chip bags to save the world.

Slow (5, Funny)

Ruprecht the Monkeyb (680597) | 1 year,24 days | (#44212443)

Nature also takes 40 years to give me a two-by-four.

Re:Slow (3, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | 1 year,23 days | (#44212869)

If you don't have high standards for your 2x4s (and if you're buying what your local home-improvement store sells, you probably don't), it's more like 15-20 years for some fast-growing pine lumber.

</pedantry>

Re:Slow (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | 1 year,23 days | (#44214477)

All depends on what you mean by high standards.

For a quality piece of furniture, then rough, fast growing pine isn't the best choice.

For rougher work which does not need to look amazing and last in perpetuity, fast growing pine is the right choice. Using something slower growing is a waste of resources.

For example replacing some rotten parts of my shed (caused by careless previous owners leaving wet stuff piled up against it) does not require quality wood and honestly is not worth the money.

Re:Slow (1)

necro81 (917438) | 1 year,23 days | (#44214635)

If you don't have high standards for your 2x4s

All depends on what you mean by high standards. For a quality piece of furniture

No furniture-making carpenter uses 2x4s. If they are starting from rough-sawn lumber, then it's 4/4, 8/4, etc.

Re:Slow (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | 1 year,23 days | (#44214929)

No furniture-making carpenter uses 2x4s. If they are starting from rough-sawn lumber, then it's 4/4, 8/4, etc.

I was working under the assumption that the OP would apply the same quality standards to pieces of wood other than those cut to 2x4. My local lumber yard offers all sorts of sizes of rough sawn fast grown pine for all sorts of things.

It all looks largely the same in terms of quality.

Re:Slow (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | 1 year,23 days | (#44214875)

Your local home-improvement store probably sells douglas fir 2x4s, and (somewhat ironically) pine furring strips.

Re:Slow (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44213163)

I dunno, this morning it took 15 seconds.

Re:Slow (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213993)

See a doctor, that's not healthy.

But I like big, smoke-belching factories (4, Insightful)

drwho (4190) | 1 year,24 days | (#44212449)

Great granddaddy left the crappy farm and came to the USA and worked in the factory. Finally, his family had enough food to eat, a roof over their heads, and people weren't trying to kill them every other week. But the factories are all going away now. No more forges, no more assmbly lines, no more smog, no more jobs. Unless you're lucky, and move to Silicon valley, and manage to strike it rich and not develop a disease, go insane, or burnout before you hit age 30. At age 30, you either reture to a beach somewhere on your IPO cash, or are shuffled off to jobs that can't keep up with inflation, as your job functions are moved overseas.

Oh, poo-poo! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#44212559)

We are in a new age of higher productivity with much less human labor of any kind needed and the rest of us go on to a life of leisure - in poverty.

Re:But I like big, smoke-belching factories (1)

phantomfive (622387) | 1 year,24 days | (#44212725)

Are there really smoke-belching factories around? I know a few that look like they are belching smoke, but it's either water vapor or oxygen.... Where are these factories located?

Re:But I like big, smoke-belching factories (1)

mirix (1649853) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213121)

Even with scrubbers, coal fired things are still pretty belchy.

Smelters are a lot cleaner than they used to be, but they still put out a lot of filth.

There's a big nickel smelter in Sudbury, Ontario:

Inco alone accounts for 20% of all of the arsenic emitted in North America, 13% of the lead and 30% of the nickel.

(This is after upgrades - they mostly reduced SO2 and NOx as I understand it... less acid rain now, at least).

In 1998, Inco emitted 146.7 metric tons of lead

Don't want your kids to eat the dirt if they live around there...

Acid rain had made the whole place barren by the 50's, so they built the tallest smokestack in the western hemishpere [wikipedia.org] (1250 feet!) to disperse it over a larger area, in the 80's.

Re:But I like big, smoke-belching factories (1)

FireBreath (724099) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213873)

I grew up in Sudbury and blame my asthma on the nickel smelting.

Re:But I like big, smoke-belching factories (1)

dbIII (701233) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213931)

Even with scrubbers, coal fired things are still pretty belchy

Details please if you want to show you have a clue.

The entire point of scrubbers is so all that NOx, SOx and fly ash ends up in a dam, it's not just spraying vast amounts of water around for the hell of it.

Re:But I like big, smoke-belching factories (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44213959)

all that NOx, SOx and fly ash ends up in a dam

Nothing is 100% efficient, including scrubbers. Consider that a municipal level coal plant burns a few hundred thousand tons of coal a year, and factor in the expected capture efficiency, and you get the idea that even things which exist in coal in the ppm and ppb range are belched out in significant quantities.

Re:But I like big, smoke-belching factories (1)

dbIII (701233) | 1 year,23 days | (#44214011)

Nothing is 100% efficient

I'd like to see your small percentage of liquid water in an open container at 1000C then.
Where do these idiots come from?

Re: But I like big, smoke-belching factories (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44214125)

What a straw man.

The scrubbers are not 100% efficient. The tiny percentage of particles which escape causes problems to humans.

I guess you have never even lived near a coal plant?

Re:But I like big, smoke-belching factories (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | 1 year,23 days | (#44214883)

We can find smokestacks out of compliance as fast as we can pay people to probe them. My buddy the ex-stack-climber says that literally everything he sampled (which included coal power plants) was over the legal numbers. Everything includes coal-fired power generation. Those scrubbers either don't work or aren't being used correctly.

Re: But I like big, smoke-belching factories (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44213399)

This level of ignorance from S/D crowd only happens when it aligns with a political bias.
Visible Smokestack Emmissions have been illegal, Nationally since the 1955 Air Pollution Control Act. 1963 Clean Air Act tightened standards and enforcement, they have been ever tighter since.
That it is even a question displays a willful ignorance.

Re:But I like big, smoke-belching factories (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213907)

Where are these factories located?

In China.

Re:But I like big, smoke-belching factories (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44214041)

Maybe we should be going back to running a family farm again. This time, it includes automated electronic harvesters, solar power collecting, and a mini-factory complete with 3d printers. I mean fuck it, it civilization is turning its back on us, maybe we should gather the tools to start supporting ourselves instead. What was once old is now new again and all that.

Re:But I like big, smoke-belching factories (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | 1 year,23 days | (#44214197)

Can you provide detailed plans for a plough that can be made with a 3d printer?

I currently prefer mine to be made of steel in a giant forge. (Same goes for diesel tractor cylinder blocks).

Re:But I like big, smoke-belching factories (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | 1 year,23 days | (#44214483)


Can you provide detailed plans for a plough that can be made with a 3d printer?

I currently prefer mine to be made of steel in a giant forge. (Same goes for diesel tractor cylinder blocks).

3D printing is becoming quite popular in the aerospace industry these days, especially on the small end. It turns out that with a laser sintering machine you can cheaply and easily make some quite amazing custom titanium parts for small engines that are nearly impossible to make with conventional subtractive manufacture.

So there are almost certainly plans for 3D printed engine parts, though for now it's limited to aerospace since the expense is prohibitive for anything except that field.

Re:But I like big, smoke-belching factories (1)

Kjella (173770) | 1 year,23 days | (#44214045)

Or you pick a line of work that can't practically be outsourced, like say plumbing. Or you find yourself a niche that simply won't outsource, I'm not even allowed to remote in to work (well I can read email and documents, but not work on any actual data) so I very much doubt they'll ship it wholesale to India or China. Does that suck a bit? Yes, but if the job could be done from anywhere then the job could be done from anywhere, it strikes both ways. It's sad to say for us working with computers, but if you fear being outsourced don't pick the #1 service to outsource.

Re:But I like big, smoke-belching factories (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | 1 year,23 days | (#44214899)

Or you pick a line of work that can't practically be outsourced, like say plumbing.

Plumbing is a union job. That has its ups but it also has its downs. I know both plumbers and electricians who can't actually get work because the unions have the job market completely sewn up and they effectively get to decide who works.

Probably the best thing to do would be to move out of the USA before the dustbowl hits. Where to go now, though? I was thinking Panama but now that both the Pacific and the Gulf are boned and you don't want to eat the fish, that's kind of shot.

More important than using recycled stuff (5, Insightful)

sandytaru (1158959) | 1 year,24 days | (#44212465)

-- is ensuring that whatever we end up using for our 3D printed parts can, itself, be easily recycled. The problem with a lot of hard plastics is that they're difficult to recycle. Using softer polymers in 3D printing, and engineering their structures to create the strength (as the article discusses with the abalone shells) will allow us to create objects that can be used until they are no longer needed, then melted right back into the tank for new stuff. Having objects made from natural materials is all good and well, but the material has to be suitable for the purpose. I don't think I'd want a gear for my car made out of wood chips.

Re:More important than using recycled stuff (4, Interesting)

drwho (4190) | 1 year,24 days | (#44212509)

thermoplastics do that. Thermosetting compounds don't. Sometimes you can get away with a thermoplastic, sometimes not. Then there's the problem of miximg them in the recycling stream, especially when people add all sorts of things to the thermoplastics like metals and colors and stuff. Also, the big move has been to make plastics that don't last forever...in landfills, they tell us. UV light breaks them down. No recycling then!

Sometimes you just have to burn the stuff. Then use the atmosphere and the sun and the ocean to make it back into the really basic material.

Re:More important than using recycled stuff (4, Interesting)

plover (150551) | 1 year,23 days | (#44212853)

We could fix a lot of this by engineering stuff to be recyclable. Imagine assembly with connectors designed to come apart in easy to create environments. Maybe the rivets release all ABS parts at 75C, and all aluminum parts at 90C.

Re:More important than using recycled stuff (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | 1 year,23 days | (#44212957)

The rivets already release ABS at ~105C.
Aluminium parts don't get released until 660C though.

Re:More important than using recycled stuff (2)

plover (150551) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213089)

What I meant was to use different materials engineered to self-destruct as the rivets or fasteners. Then you could follow a formula to recycle it: Heat it to 50C and the case separates. Heat it to 60C, and all the 60C screws holding the circuit boards melt, allowing recovery of electronics and precious metals. Heat to 75C and all the ABS parts pop off. Continue heating to 90C and all the aluminum rails come apart. Apply steam, and all the steel separates.

You could even spring load the fasteners so that when it's melting time, the correct materials literally fly out of the assembly.

Then you simply drop an unwanted clock-radio in the waste stream, scan its recycling code, and all the recyclables are automatically separated and recovered.

Re:More important than using recycled stuff (0)

viperidaenz (2515578) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213475)

Then poor product owner leaves the the product in the boot of their car in summer and come back to a pile of crap. Especially in parts of the world where the ambient temperature exceeds 40C.

Re:More important than using recycled stuff (1)

plover (150551) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213865)

That was just an example for Slashdot using completely made up temperature numbers. If the boot of an Aussiewagon can climb to 70C, then select the fasteners to pop at 80C. Or instead of temperature, have them pop with non-toxic common solvents, like fresh water to release the circuit boards, salt water to release stainless steel, and vinegar to release the ABS plastics. Or maybe have the rivets contain an antifreeze that would expand and burst the connectors if it's frozen below -40C. You could have a ring with a pull-tab that would yank out the disassembling connectors in the proper order. You could even bind the product with nichrome wire, and have a series of electrical connection points that would melt fusible key fasteners in the proper order. There are dozens of ways this could be done electrically, mechanically, or using temperatures or chemicals. Using varying melting temperatures of thermoplastics would be nice because they would keep the process simple (plastic rivets are really cheap, and it would require almost no technology to slowly roast a product over heat to reclaim the materials), but other methods might work as well.

The product could also simply be labeled: "Store the device where the temperature is between -20 and 45 C (-4 to 113 F). Don’t leave the device in your car, because temperatures in parked cars can exceed this range." That seems to work well enough for Apple, as that's exactly the line from their support page on the subject: https://support.apple.com/kb/HT2101 [apple.com] In other words, if you cooked it it's your problem.

Re:More important than using recycled stuff (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | 1 year,23 days | (#44214049)

A lot of stuff is already designed to be recycled. The problem is the separation process. It's extremely labor and time intensive to do this. More so than making the actual product to begin with.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. In that order. Burning the trash to reclaim thermal energy (power generation) would fall under "Recycle".

Re:More important than using recycled stuff (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | 1 year,23 days | (#44214679)

Maybe the rivets release all ABS parts at 75C

Stuff would fall apart if left in a hot car or in direct sunlight. Your basic idea is good, but the implementation needs a bit more work.

Re:More important than using recycled stuff (1)

TheSeatOfMyPants (2645007) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213099)

The mixed-color issue could be handled by selling it as a cheaper grade for people willing to paint on the colors they want over a white basecoat -- I imagine that would work fine for a lot of hobbyists creating models, for example. If the person wants to recycle that plastic, they can use paint thinner or similar liquid to strip it back to a naked state prior to melting down or customizing it. That method could produce a viable source of cheap 3D-printable plastic for people testing out a design, on a tight budget, or whose primary interest is in hand painting miniatures or scale models.

A similar approach was used by some scale model & toy manufacturers relying on cellulose acetate during the 70s oil crisis: the clean white they normally used was in short supply, so they switched to marbled green/gray plastic and used a thick white basecoat to cover it up. (Here's one company's creations as an example [webs.com] .) Those models were often then "recycled" either by the company stripping & melting the plastic down for reuse, or by hobbyists stripping and customizing them.

Re:More important than using recycled stuff (1)

dbIII (701233) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213937)

Already done with recycled plastic - throw in a lot of carbon black and it doesn't matter so much what the other pigments in the mix are.

Re:More important than using recycled stuff (1)

tsa (15680) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213815)

UV light breaks them down but the molecules that are left are often also harmful for the environment. We ned together much better at making biodegradable polymers.

Re:More important than using recycled stuff (2)

mirix (1649853) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213213)

Sometimes you need a thermoset [wikipedia.org] , for heat tolerance. (generally phenol resins, like bakelite, excel here). Pretty common in cooking pot handles / barbeque handles, some automotive parts, etc.

They are one shot, they don't melt, but generally decompose into toxic stink, if you do get them hot enough. polyester resins and epoxies (like in fibreglass) are like this too.

Though for lower temperature stuff, nylon seems to be more popular now, and it is recyclable ( melts at ~200C, I think).

Hardness isn't really the right word you're using. For example polystyrene (as in CD cases, etc), polycarbonate (lexan) (the CDs themselves, safety glasses), and plexiglas/lucite/acyrlic (PMMA) are all quite hard/brittle, but melt fine, being thermoplastics.

Re:More important than using recycled stuff (2)

Nutria (679911) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213329)

I don't think I'd want a gear for my car made out of wood chips.

30 years ago, I was driving down the Interstate in my Chevy Monza (hey, it was cheap and fuel efficient) when the engine suddenly sputtered to a halt. The mechanic showed me that the timing gear was made of particle board which had disintegrated after about 50,000 miles worth of centrifugal force.

Non-toxic? (4, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | 1 year,24 days | (#44212483)

If nature does things in a "non-toxic" manner, it's only because other life adapts to the things that were toxic.

Case in point: oxygen in the atmosphere [wikipedia.org]

I don't have a problem with sustainable practices, because that will be better for all concerned, but lets steer clear of justifying it with Gaianism crap.

FOX-News-like propaganda (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#44212569)

Aha! The usual FOX-News-like propaganda on Slashdot. Because one thing was toxic to some organisms, lots of things were! So spewing more toxins is glorious and beautiful! Undoubtedly you will get modded up to +5, insightful, because your post panders to the political fashions around here. (That's also why I'm posting anonymously, since I want to preserve my karma.)

Re:FOX-News-like propaganda (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#44212591)

Because one thing was toxic to some organisms,

...er, I mean because one thing was toxic to some organisms and they adapted to it, lots of things were toxic to some organisms and they adapted to them.

Re:FOX-News-like propaganda (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213159)

Wow, it's almost like you didn't read the last of three lines in my post.

Re:FOX-News-like propaganda (1)

tsa (15680) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213825)

Anonymous Coward!

Re:FOX-News-like propaganda (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44214033)

Just posting anonymously so the conservative fuckups who dominate Slashdot won't ruin my karma.

Re:Non-toxic? (5, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | 1 year,24 days | (#44212627)

The nontoxic part doesn't really make sense even taking adaptation into account. There are plenty of natural toxins that are toxic to us and other organisms. Nature sometimes "invents" them specifically for their toxicity, as in the case of reptile venom or mycotoxins.

And as for natural vs. unnatural chemistry: chemical-weapons programs use "unnatural" chemistry, while biological-weapons programs use "natural" chemistry. But does that distinction mean anthrax is the earth-friendly "green" alternative to mustard gas?

Re:Non-toxic? (-1, Offtopic)

Turbio (1814644) | 1 year,23 days | (#44212841)

I am amused at how you guys see everything in terms of weapons and war...

Re:Non-toxic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44213271)

I am curious how you see only discussion of weapons and war, when specifically in a thread about toxicity, in response to a post that only half talked about war, and the other half about day-to-day life for many organisms.

Re:Non-toxic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44213285)

I am amused at how you guys see everything in terms of weapons and war...

I am amused that you determined that from one post that responding to a post about nature and toxicity.

Re:Non-toxic? (1)

fermion (181285) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213081)

more importantly we have adapted to materials at certain levels. For instance, sugar at levels found in nature are one thing, while concentrated levels found in process food might be a toxic or near toxic levels. Likewise there is an acceptable level of background radiation, while humans now have the ability to concentrate natural radiation and otherwise create levels that are instantly toxic.

So honestly, everything we have and can have is natural. Even elements that are made in reactors have existed somewhere in nature, but have just radiated away. Most plastic is just reorganized plants matter. It is just that in such reoganization we concentrate matter to levels not previously generally encountered by our bodies.

Now, if let nature take it course, and allow the, say, 30% of humans that are not fit to live in the current environment, certainly in a few generations everything will be ok. Of course we no longer live that way. We shoot kids up with drugs, and save babies that are not 100% viable, so we really can't talk about developing to a new norm. We are pretty much going to have to keep under the 'natural' toxicity levels or see increasingly levels of our economic output dedicated to compensating for toxic levels of input.

Not all PLA is made from maize (4, Informative)

vik (17857) | 1 year,24 days | (#44212507)

It's made from sugarbeet, milk waste, and current pilot plants are looking at cellulosic production piggybacking on ethanol research. Only in the US where agricultural subsidies encourage it is it made from maize. That's a political problem, not a biological problem.

Please quite making asinine statements. (5, Insightful)

nashv (1479253) | 1 year,24 days | (#44212511)

I hate such noob statements ""Nature uses life-friendly chemistry, which is nontoxic and water-based, and which does not require high heat," These are essentially teleological arguments.

Nature (the environment) uses what is available. Life evolves to survive, or it ceases to exist. Simple as that. You are a biologist, quit with the Mother Nature-Goddess Gaia worshipping nonsense.

Re:Please quite making asinine statements. (4, Insightful)

drwho (4190) | 1 year,24 days | (#44212545)

I'd mod you up.

There's the whole problem of what is 'nature' and what 'use' means. Is not man a part of nature? Are we not just clever monkeys? The only thing outside of nature is the supernatural, but last I checked, neither gods nor ghosts were making much of anything.

life-friendly chemistry. WTF does that mean? "nontoxic and water-based" - ok, so now it's all about what solvents are involved? Water is a great solvent, but right now I am enjoying it mixed with some ethanol. Than you, yeasts. Yeast is natural, right?

What is the matter with high heat? Are you afraid of fire, Ms Benyus? I think you are. Fire from coal is pretty intimidating, for sure, but also very useful. Coal, iron, and steam changed the world but people like Benyus probably don't think it was for the better. You worship the sun, the wind, the moon. You don't want to think about the fire from the earth, the fire beneath the earth, energy that comes from other tan your god, Sol. You don't like coal, or petroleum, or nuclear power. But you won't tell yourself why. You just don't think they're 'natural'.

Re:Please quite making asinine statements. (1)

baKanale (830108) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213219)

...tan your god, Sol.

In Soviet Russia, your god Sol tans you!

Re:Please quite making asinine statements. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44213445)

Chem Eng, Enviro specialty here. Biological processes are sweet because they run at/near SATP (room temp and pressure) and generally use water (cheap, non-toxic) as a solvent. Typical industrial processing techniques use harsh-assed chemicals (safety + environmental risk) and a lot of energy (usually heat). That being said, biological systems are typically inefficient as shit and can't produce the same output / rector volume but are much cheaper. SO if you can create a culture that's particularly suited to what you want it to do (E. Coli is often used) you can recreate an expensive process that involves toxic (read: expensive to dispose of) with a cheap process with a disposal cost that is orders of magnitude lower than the traditional solution.

So yeah, that's why biological processes (low temp, nontoxic materials) are sweet. They cost less.

Re:Please quite making asinine statements. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#44212577)

I always tell people not to anthropomorphize nature, as nature does not like it. :)

Re:Please quite making asinine statements. (1)

drwho (4190) | 1 year,24 days | (#44212593)

I wish there was a 'like' button here.

Re:Please quite making asinine statements. (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213919)

I wish there was a 'like' button here.

There is. It is called "moderation", specifically moderating up.

Re:Please quite making asinine statements. (1)

rizole (666389) | 1 year,23 days | (#44214331)

Nature abhors a running gag.

Re:Please quite making asinine statements. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#44212595)

This is the same problem with our search for life in the universe. Earth life is a byproduct of the elemental makeup of earth. Earth is not the result of life.

Re:Please quite making asinine statements. (2)

phantomfive (622387) | 1 year,24 days | (#44212739)

Especially when nature very often is toxic, and very painful......

Re:Please quite making asinine statements. (1)

plover (150551) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213541)

Nature (the environment) uses what is available.

That's actually the basis for her entire argument, minus the goddess-worshipping bits. If nature can produce cellulose without a furnace, why can't we produce it without a furnace?

The obvious answer is that we don't have the patience required to grow a 3D chair instead of printing one. But she raises an interesting challenge.

No heat? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#44212603)

I guess volcanoes are out of the equation.

"Natural" manufacturing is material-limited (3, Interesting)

He Who Has No Name (768306) | 1 year,24 days | (#44212609)

Mother Nature doesn't do much manufacturing of metals of any kind, much less ferrous alloys.

She only works with ceramics in a few limited ways.

Those giant, hot, smog-belching factories were built specifically because we can't build starships out of wood and stone, or semiconductors out of sandstone and clay. Show somebody how to plant, fertilize, water, and grow a SSTO launch vehicle or a billion-plus transistor CPU, we'll be all over that. Until then, we'll do it with steel and silicone, and those materials have to come from somewhere, and that somewhere isn't a garden.

Re:"Natural" manufacturing is material-limited (1)

Turbio (1814644) | 1 year,23 days | (#44212761)

You speak so 20th century...
Current trends in materials use carbon nanotubes and proteins which make lighter and stronger structures, and also have some interesting electrical properties. But of course, these can't stand very hight temperatures.
For computing power there are neural networks and even some processes using RNA molecules. But of course silicon based computers are still very efficient at what they do, and quantum computers will be even better.
So in the end, the best is to develop the both worlds, organic and inorganic based chemistry.

Re:"Natural" manufacturing is material-limited (1)

Nutria (679911) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213405)

Current trends in materials use carbon nanotubes and proteins which make lighter and stronger structures

Still in the laboratory. Call us back when a company is mass producing something out of carbon nanotubes.

Re:"Natural" manufacturing is material-limited (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | 1 year,23 days | (#44212979)

Silicone is used to make fake boobs, it's not a semiconductor.

Re:"Natural" manufacturing is material-limited (1)

Dogbertius (1333565) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213013)

Silicone is used to make fake boobs, it's not a semiconductor.

Perhaps he/she is producing a fembot (with minimal intelligence), you insensitive clod.

Re:"Natural" manufacturing is material-limited (1)

Macgrrl (762836) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213311)

Silicone is used to make fake boobs...

But is an excellent example of something which is unnatural and can kill you.

actually they do grow silicon (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44213259)

in the process of creating a monolithic silicon cylinder from which to cut dies, they start with a crystal and grow it

Probably won't happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#44212633)

I think there are plenty of chemicals found in nature which are not 'life-friendly'.
Which is why injesting random plants and fungi is usually a bad idea.
------

In most cases mass-production will beat out distributed-production, just because the turnout and failure rate of a jack-of-all-trades printer/machine is so much worse than a specialized factory machine. For prototyping it's ideal, but for something high-quality in a hurry we're still a ways off.

ROFLMFAO (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#44212655)

Smoke any weed lately? What a bunch of warm excrement.

Quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#44212671)

>> "Nature uses life-friendly chemistry, which is nontoxic and water-based, and which does not require high heat,"

Says the person who has never witnessed a volcano.

Small, clean desktop printers (2)

swampfriend (2629073) | 1 year,24 days | (#44212689)

...which are themselves manufactured in big, smoke-belching factories.

Re:Small, clean desktop printers (1)

Turbio (1814644) | 1 year,23 days | (#44212851)

I guess you are missing the point. You should learn about the RepRap community.

Re:Small, clean desktop printers (1)

swampfriend (2629073) | 1 year,23 days | (#44212905)

I was making a joke, but if you'd like me to be serious, I do know about RepRap, and I have to say: the premise that we can make self-replicating devices (or device families) that not only reproduce themselves, but acquire the resources for their reproduction in an efficient way, seems far-fetched to me. That is what this article is about: we assume that evolution has made refinements on reproductive processes that should be clues for people trying to improve self-replication in machines. Unfortunately, even biological processes, honed by millenia of natural selection, are pretty wasteful, because most of them have never had to adapt to Earth's very finitude.

Re:Small, clean desktop printers (1)

Turbio (1814644) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213325)

Sorry. My mistake. LOL!

Nature Is Exothermic -- Just Slow (4, Informative)

Bob9113 (14996) | 1 year,24 days | (#44212723)

"Nature uses life-friendly chemistry, which is nontoxic and water-based, and which does not require high heat,"

Nature's manufacturing processes are exothermic, just like factory processes. They're just really slow, so the heat difference at any moment is fairly low. Take plants, for example -- they take in solar energy, increase order locally, and produce heat during respiration. The law of increasing entropy requires unordered energy to be released to offset the increases in local order.

The heat produced is not as shockingly different as it seems based on casual observation; the waste heat is just being expelled over a longer period of time. According to Wikipedia, and my incomplete understanding of the entire process, photosynthetic biomass production is at most 32% efficient (see below). I would guess meatware manufacturing is not much more efficient, if at all.

Wikipedia: Photosynthetic Efficiency [wikipedia.org] :
Stated another way:
100% sunlight -> non-bioavailable photons waste is 47%, leaving
53% (in the 400-700 nm range) -> 30% of photons are lost due to incomplete absorption, leaving
37% (absorbed photon energy) -> 24% is lost due to wavelength-mismatch degradation to 700 nm energy, leaving
28.2% (sunlight energy collected by chlorophyl) -> 32% efficient conversion of ATP and NADPH to d-glucose, leaving
9% (collected as sugar) -> 35-40% of sugar is recycled/consumed by the leaf in dark and photo-respiration, leaving
5.4% net leaf efficiency.

Re:Nature Is Exothermic -- Just Slow (1)

Turbio (1814644) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213295)

I think that what she means is that biological chemistry uses enzymes that lower the activation energy [wikipedia.org] . So 99.99% of all biological chemical reactions occur at less than 50C (my very arbitrary guesstimate).

Life-friendly chemistry? (4, Insightful)

PPH (736903) | 1 year,23 days | (#44212829)

I know of a few animals [wikipedia.org] and plants [wikipedia.org] you'd better not mess with or risk getting sick/dying.

Why is it that the greenies always seem to equate natural things with healthy things? Nature will kill you, given half a chance.

Re:Life-friendly chemistry? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44213883)

First item on your second link (of poisonous plants) is... "Apple (Malus domestica). Seeds are mildly poisonous, containing a small amount of amygdalin, a cyanogenic glycoside. The quantity contained is usually not enough to be dangerous to humans, but it is possible to ingest enough seeds to provide a fatal dose."

I knew there was a reason to avoid Apple seeds!

If nature is so relevant... (2)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | 1 year,23 days | (#44212889)

Why not build a 400,000 lb bumblebee instead of a B747? Point being that imitating nature oftentimes isn't good or even possible.

Janine Benyus is not a biologist (4, Insightful)

brillow (917507) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213291)

Janine Benyus has a BS in Natural Resource Management and english lit from Rutgers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janine_Benyus [wikipedia.org]

Re:Janine Benyus is not a biologist (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | 1 year,23 days | (#44214207)

BS has more than one meaning.

Evil brand potato chips (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44213597)

A potato chip bag may seem like a simple item, but it is actually made up of several thin layers of different materials, one to make it strong, one to make it airtight, and so on.'"

One to rule them all, one to find them all
one layer to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

A regular potato chip bag is just aluminized polyester, but the Dark Lord's potato chips are evil. The packaging is indestructible, even against dragon fire. It can only be opened by throwing it into the pit of the volcanic Mount Doom (a division of Frito-Lay North America, Inc.), where it was originally forged.

No ones ever managed to eat theese chipssses, 'cause nobody getsss them open, but we knowsss they are in the bagginss. Those wrotten, filthy little bagginsses!!! *cough* *cough*

Seriously (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44214015)

Why? You had posts on here explaining why any want-a-be company is just in it for money, a lack of improvement in 3D printing. I just read on the BBC, scientists lack of understanding or effort in creating a functional liver. And the lack of actually creating a object that fully functions, this is why I do not just jump in and buy something as media driven as this stuff. Is this how we drive the economy anymore, throw out random BS and hope for the best?

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