Given the sudden recent influx of articles into our design and technology news feeds, many consider 3D printing a recent industry trend, even though it is now 30 years old. Charles Hull, co-founder of 3D Systems, invented the 3D printing process in 1984 following years of researching and developing concepts, printing designs, and processes.
In the last 10 years, many breakthroughs have been featured across the web, including the self-replicating printer made by the RepRap Project and the 3D bioprinter created by Dr. Gabor Forinca's technology, which helped Organovo create the 3D printed blood vessel.
Some of the breakthroughs are very impressive, and some inspiring and innovative inventions have been created using 3D printing technology. Some have been created by people using small printing units such as the 3Doodler and the Peachy Printer, which was funded through the social funding program Kickstarter. Other printers include the $299 Printrbot Simple and the Buccaneer. These devices may be a big investment, especially for those who want to try out the technology in their homes.
Outside the home, retail stores are getting in on the act. The UK supermarket chain Asda has launched a 3D printing service in its York store. It will scan anything up to the size of a car and reduce it to an eight-inch model.
In preparation for the next big craze in design and technology, I present a slideshow of what I think are the five best 3D-printed items and the brains and inspiration behind them. Click the image below to see them.
Though it is designed with the fans of the Terminator movies in mind, this 3D-printed arm could give us a glimpse into the future of prosthetics. Highlighted at the London Science Museum's 3D printing exhibition, the arm was designed by Richard Hague, director of the University of Nottingham's additive manufacturing and 3D printing research group. The model printed in clear plastic shows in detail how it would work. The circuits can sense temperature, feel objects, and control the arm's movement. (Source: NewScientist.com)
Jonny Rowntree is a freelance writer working with the worldwide digital printing partner Elanders UK.
Thanks for the history lesson, Chuck. I've been wondering where this techology came from. It seemed like it popped out of nowhere. As well as being an attractive name, 3D printing clearly describes the object's function.
Good news, whic is that those expensive spools of plastic are not at all the only way to print with plastic. A mechanisation quite similar to a hot glue gun can dispense small drops of molten plastic, which can be from ordinary regrind plastic. LOts cheaper and available in a whole lot more places. And the mechanism may even be simpler than the feed for the plastic string stock. The main downside is needing to reload a bit more often. But extruding drops of melted regrind is a great way to make things indeed.
Yes, 3D printing has been around a while. Part of the recent explosion in interest in it stems from the name -- 3D printing. I wrote about stereolithography 20 years ago and there wasn't much interest in it. Similarly, the use of the terms "selective laser sintering" and "fused deposition modeling" didn't send anyone's heart racing, either. But the name "3D printer" captured the public's interest, and captured the interest of the mainstream press, even though many "3D printers" don't look like printers at all. The clever name will ultimately allow the world to consider it long enough to see the amazing things a that an FDM machine or SLS machine can do.
I think the prosthetic hand points to the future. Imagine if stem cells taken from your body could be grown and printed to form a new replacement body part that was genetically the same as the owner. There would be no rejection issues. I believe this will happen, just a matter of time.
If you've spent any time looking for the right connector to use in a smartphone or other mobile device, you might believe that all fine-pitch, low-profile connectors are created equal. But they're not.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.