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"Human beings hardly ever learn from the experience of others. They learn; when they do, which isn't often, on their own, the hard way."
- Robert Heinlein

Biltong Life Form  
  Remarkable organic manufacturing aliens, probably indigenous to the Centaurus system.  

From cars to radios to fine glassware, the Biltong life forms could create beautiful, working copies. The survivors of war relied on the Biltong life forms to make copies - "prints" - of necessary objects.

As fast as the prints wore out, they were replaced by the Pittsburgh Biltong. New prints were made from the original objects preserved from the War.

But there was a problem.

The Biltong was dying. Huge and old, it squatted in the center of the settlement park, a lump of ancient yellow protoplasm, thick, gummy, opaque. Its pseudopodia were dried up, shriveled to blackened snakes that lay inert on the brown grass. The center of mass looked oddly sunken. The Biltong was gradually settling as the moisture was burned from its veins by the weak overhead sun...

The Biltong's central lump undulated faintly. Sickly, restless heavings were noticeable as it struggled to hold onto its dwindling life...

On the concrete platform, in front of the dying Biltong, lay a heap of originals to be duplicated. Beside them, a few prints had been commenced, unformed balls of black ash mixed with the moisture of the Biltong's body, the juice from which it laboriously constructed its prints.

From Pay for the Printer, by Philip K. Dick.
Published by Satellite Science Fiction in 1956
Additional resources -

Objects that were poorly copied, or copied from copies, ended up being useless.

The works of the tiny Swiss watch were a fused, unformed mass of shiny steel. No separate wheels or jewels or springs, just a glitter of pudding...

Charlotte took the puddinged watch back and restored it to her sweater pocket.

Compare also to the method used in the cosmic express from the 1930 story of that name by Jack Williamson.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Pay for the Printer
  More Ideas and Technology by Philip K. Dick
  Tech news articles related to Pay for the Printer
  Tech news articles related to works by Philip K. Dick

Biltong Life Form-related news articles:
  - 3D Printer Used To Make Transplant Jawbone
  - Hexapod Robot CNC Router
  - 3D Printing In Ceramics - The Vitraglyphic Process
  - 3D Printing: The End Of Global Supply Chains?
  - 3D Printing Is Here - Pay For The Printer!
  - 3D Printing An Entire Car
  - Strati 3D Printed Car
  - Oak Ridge To Pay For The (Giant, Superfast 3D) Printer
  - MultiFab 10-Material 3D Printer
  - LM3D Swim First 3D-Printed Production Car

Articles related to Manufacturing
Siemens 3D Printing Robot Spiders
3D Cocooner From Festo Spins Web In Mid-Air
XYZprinting 3D Pen Used, Reviewed By Terrible Artist
3D Printing Microparticles

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