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The future of 3D-printed trees


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#1
starspawn0

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We often hear about 3D-printing of human organs, and occasionally about the distant possibility of 3D-printed animals; but, surely, it will be a lot easier to 3D-print trees, and I'm guessing it won't be too much more complicated than 3D-printing complex human organs. I mean, unlike an animal, if a tree isn't getting a supply of Co2 or oxygen, it won't immediately die; and you can chop off pieces, and it won't immediately die -- so there is a lot of room for error. And I doubt you would need to give it memories of childhood (sapling) or something, in order for it act as an adult. 3D-printing a brain at sufficient resolution to reproduce memories sounds like it will take many decades to pull off; but fortunately nothing so complicated may need be done to make a viable tree. You'd need a lot of different types of tree cells, certainly, and also the substances that bind the cells together -- cells with chlorophyll, as in the leaves; cells in the bark; cells in the innards; cells in the roots -- but the same is true for 3D-printing human organs, and that seems to be advancing rather quickly.

So, let's assume my guess is right. What are the implications?

Well, first it will mean that all the forests of the world that have been destroyed by farming or industry, can be made to quickly recover. Just 3D-print thousands and thousands of adult trees, and plant them. Ordinarily, it may take 30 or 40 years to grow them; but with 3D-printing, you might could do it in 24 hours.

One could also 3D-print old-growth forests in a very short span of time. Hiking through a forest of old, large hardwoods is a wondrous thing.

If you want to add a rustic look to your yard, just 3D-print an old oak tree, and plant it.

Eventually, when we go to build space colonies, forests could be 3D-printed on demand. What would have taken decades or centuries to pull off using traditional silviculture methods, could be done in weeks or months.

Of course, my imagination could be getting far ahead of the reality. It may very well be that trees are underappreciated, and a lot more complicated than is widely known. But if not, then I could see 3D-printed trees being a reality in the next several decades -- not by 2030... or 2040... but maybe 2050 and after.
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#2
funkervogt

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The only problem is that it would be very hard and expensive to 3D print large, adult trees since you'd need a lot of feedstock and a huge printer. Better to 3D print saplings and then have machines plant them and tend to them until they're mature. 


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#3
kjaggard

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  • Locationwhere fanciful imaginings and hard won knowledge meet to genesis the future.

I imagine for the initial phase of printing plants, we will see custom shaped engineered plant structures meant to optimize food crops and placement in farms. why grow a huge corn stalk for an ear of corn when you can grow the root and the ear in a space the size of a violin case in a vertical farm. print companion crops in modular tile formats that can be laid out in the most complementary way for nutrient and light needs. Or make a hedge for under your window that grows walnuts and apples.

 

part of the issue with printing full sized trees is that it's the growing that uses co2 you want them to eat the co2 to grow from sapling to tree. Perhaps move valuble would be to print root structures that you can graft a cut branch to and clone 6 trees in a season from any tree, rapidly growing a forest over a decade.


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