Jennifer, it seems that everything can be printed with 3D printers. Starting from space application tools to finally wearable clothes. If it's going like that there is no doubt it can print human parts also.
Jenn, I don't know where I saw it (maybe here), but body parts have been printed for surgeons to use to practice for complex operations. These parts have the properties of the human organs from a surgeon's point of view, but are not "real".
On the other hand I have run into a small company that uses a CNC machine. They also us 3D printing for some specialized, one off, parts. They also just make stuff that is fun. I was over one day and they gave me a small Tardis made of a corn based plastic. How's that for new trends?
One would guess a big goal of the printer manufacturers is to get into the home market. But to do that, I would expect people to desire a printer to be flexible with regard to matierals. I would not want a printer that could handle only one type of material. A printer that can fab both hard items and soft, or a mix of them both is the one that will take off.
3D printers are definitely fascinating everyone who just love the idea of being able the power to manufacture products on their own. I think that It might even lead to peope starting their own home business by manufacturing either engineering parts or decorative items. It would certainly bring a big change in the mind set of people.
I don't know if I'd call it a trend but the medical industry is moving forward quickly using 3D printing.
The printed jawbone Jennifer mentioned is cool. I just read on iht.com about living human tissue being printed too. If my ACL-less knees can be effectively re-printed and replaced, I'd take up fencing again.
TJ, there's one commercial multi-materials printer so far, and it prints both hard and soft polymers. It's the ObjetConnex, now owned by Stratasys. We've written about it a few times: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=265793 http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=260118 http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=247146
I let them draw stuff up using SketchUp Make and let them print it out, no matter how it turns out they are amazed watching it work. We should all be letting the kids learn this even at the youngest ages, my kids are 6 and 11 years old.
It won't be too much longer and hardware design, as we used to know it, will be remembered alongside the slide rule and the Karnaugh map. You will need to move beyond those familiar bits and bytes into the new world of software centric design.
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