Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Microstory 1757: Norma’s Kitchen in a Box

Marjorie Norma did not invent 3D printing, but she was instrumental in standardizing it. And when her competitors came for blood, she ended up on top, because she still had the best product, and brand loyalty. The science of additive manufacturing was still in its infancy when she started working on it as a pet project. She knew that speed and sophistication were going to progress on their own, and that all she had to do was keep up with it. She was focused on how people would begin using such things in their home. This meant that industrial synthesizers, and biomedical synthesizers would be less useful to most customers than food synthesizers. For the most part, she found that the current machines were either very large, or very small. Many of them were designed with a specific result in mind, or had unfortunate limitations. If people were going to place these things in their homes, they needed to be versatile, and be capable of making more than just a single pastry at a time. It was never going to transition from a novelty item for people with a disposable income to a ubiquitous household appliance, unless anyone could download any program, and print anything. She got her idea when she walked into her kitchen one day, and looked around. By the entrance was the refrigerator. It took up the most space, and it wasn’t always full. She also had a stove/oven combo, above which her husband had installed a microwave oven. Then there was a sink, and a dishwasher. She owned a fairly small kitchen, and she made pretty good use of the space, but she wasn’t much of a cook, and neither was anyone else in the house. What if she could put everything together, or almost everything? She kept looking back at that fridge. Yes, it was the largest, but it was also the most important. A lot of foods don’t require any cooking, but they all require storage, unless you want to go to the store every day. Some people do that, but it’s not very efficient, and that lifestyle isn’t marketable. There was a solution, and she could find it.

She used that refrigerator as the basis for her new design, knowing that most living spaces were capable of accommodating it. Some units were only large enough for a mini-fridge, but people who lived in such places already knew how to make sacrifices. The top of her design was a water tank. It didn’t necessarily fit in every space, but it would be optional, and customers could connect a waterline either way, just like they would for that refrigerator. Under that would be where the cartridges went. Here she took inspiration from the toner bottles in the copy room down the hall from her office. For the synthesization cavity, she found herself limited by the dimensions of everything else, but it was still larger than the capacity of any standard oven, so that was more than enough. Since the cavity is where her users would be retrieving their food, they couldn’t put this on the floor, but at a reasonable height, which meant everything below it could be dedicated to storage. She chose to include a utensil drawer, and then an extra cartridge cabinet. All told, she figured that a fully stocked synthesizer could feed one person for about six months. Her original model did not include a dishwasher, but later ones did, allowing customers to keep almost an entire kitchen in the space of a refrigerator. It could be programmed to make just about anything, cool food, heat food, and supply water. What more could a normal person need? Well, they needed tools, and they needed organ and tissue replacements. She started to work on those machines next.

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