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.
Jonny Rowntree is a freelance writer working with the worldwide digital printing partner Elanders UK.