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"the [science fiction] writer should be able to convince the reader (and himself) that the wonders he is describing really can come true...and that gets tricky when you take a good, hard look at the world around you."
- Frederik Pohl

Plastic Constructor (3D Printer)  
  A 3D printer - for spaceships.  

This is the earliest description of what we now call a 3D printer that I've ever seen.

It makes drawings in the air following drawings it scans with photo-cells. But plastic comes out of the end of the drawing arm and hardens as it comes. This thing will start at one end of a ship or a house and build it complete to the other end, following drawings only.
From Things Pass By, by Murray Leinster.
Published by Thrilling Wonder Stories in 1945
Additional resources -

Here's a description of the machine in action:

“The arm made clumsy but precise gestures, following the drawings off to one side. It had begun by putting a blob of magnetronic plastic on a stout upright… Then, for a while, it made gradually enlarging circles about that spot.”

This video shows a prototype device that is an earth-bound version of a plastic constructor. Contour Crafting (CC) is basically a "house printer;" when supplied with the proper instructions, it will "print out" a complete shell of a house. Technovelgy readers should be familiar with the work of Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis from a previous article (see Contour Crafting: 3D House Printer for additional details on how the technique actually works).


(Robotic Contour Crafting Video )

Compare to the idea behind the cosmic express from The Cosmic Express (1930) by Jack Williamson, however, for an early version of 3D printing as part of a teleportation idea. Compare also to Deposition (3D Printing) from Assassin (1978) by James P. Hogan.

Thanks to Eric for submitting this item, with quotes!

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Things Pass By
  More Ideas and Technology by Murray Leinster
  Tech news articles related to Things Pass By
  Tech news articles related to works by Murray Leinster

Plastic Constructor (3D Printer)-related news articles:
  - Contour Crafting: 3D House Printer
  - Sketch Furniture Ultra Rapid Prototyping
  - Contour Crafting House Printer Nears Test
  - 3D Printing Your Winter Reality
  - World's First 3D Printed Villa
  - CreoPop 3D Pen Draws In Midair
  - Protopiper Lets You Sketch Full-Size Objects In Real Space
  - XYZprinting 3D Pen Used, Reviewed By Terrible Artist
  - 3D Cocooner From Festo Spins Web In Mid-Air

Articles related to Manufacturing
A 'Genuine Nanorobotic Production Factory'
Made In Space To Manufacture Optical Fiber In Orbit
Self-Assembling Bacteria Build A Pressure Sensor
Artificial Spider Silk

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