3D may be the hot new thing in Hollywood movies, but there is another 3D revolution going on that does not involve blue aliens or ocean liners that sunk 100 years ago. This revolution is 3D printing and it is quickly changing the way we think of design and manufacturing. These new printers can create physical objects the way traditional printers create an expense report. And while this technology is the wave of the future, the things that are currently being done with them are truly futuristic. Read on to find out the amazing things 3D printers are making.
How They Work
3D printers at their most basic level use an additive process to create 3D physical objects from 3D computer models. They build the objects layer by layer by laying very (several microns) thin sheets of material down. Most use a jet similar to the one in an inkjet printer. The material used can be anything from chocolate, rubber, plastic, metal, or a combination of different materials. One benefit of creating things this way is that there is almost no waste compared to standard manufacturing.
One of the main uses of 3D printers today is prototyping. Manufacturers need prototypes of products they intend to produce in order to perform tests, create accessories, and show off to gain investors. Prototyping is typically expensive because it involves adjusting complicated production lines in order to produce a few copies of the prototype. With 3D printers, prototypes can be made in house for a fraction of the cost and time.
Another new frontier for these printers is in creating medical devices. 3D printers can easily and quickly create custom implants and replacement parts for all sorts of medical uses. An 83 year old woman recently received a titanium jaw replacement (below) made in a 3D printer. Pharmaceutical companies are even beginning to produce pills using 3D printers.
3D printers are a great way to design and produce one-off items cheaply. Take for example this shoe produced by The Cube 3D printer.
3D printing is even being used to print food. Chocolate makers are starting to use printers to create intricate confections out of chocolate and other tasty ingredients. The printers work well with liquid ingredients such as melted chocolate and are being used to create intricate designs on food and even produce food with interesting and new textures.
As you can see, this truly is an amazing technological advancement. You may one day soon have a 3D printer in your own home that you will use to print spare parts, create fashion accessories, and even make dinner.
This post is written by Sabina Cao. She has a B.A. in Journalism and currently blogs for inkfarm.com, which specializes in Dell printer cartridges.