The ear actually seems like an ideal application for 3D printing, Rich. If it doesn't fit just right, if the material seems too soft or hard, it's easy enough to keep printing new ones until it's perfect.
This next link show a method of "direct manufacturing" for making large parts (like aircraft wing structures) within a large workspace, perhaps 25' x 5' x 5', or larger. Something like a MIG welder lays down a continuous bead to created a "near-net-shape" part... The a secondary conventional machining process is use to get to the part to the final dimensions. Check out the video. It is very interesting.
I'll be going to a "Battle of the 3D Printers" on the way in this Thursday. It is being billed as a 'fight to the finish'...
They will be running a Polyjet Printer against an FDM Printer. The finished parts will be judged for; finish, precision, time to print... and other important factors.
The battle will be taking place at a Dave and Busters just north of Philly, about 10 miles from where I work.
A lot of people I know are still denying that 3D printing is going to be a major part of the manufacturing industries future... I disagree. At some point the process will expand in directions that will revolutionize the shop floor.
On a personal side note, I have 25,000 words of a sci-fi book written. In one scene a reporter covering the maiden voyage of a 5k spherical space-ship needs a swimsuit to use in the low G lake... As she enters the beach-side shop on the sphere a scan of her is taken, and as she describes what she wants a hologram appears of her wearing a suit. After a few tweaks for color and style it is printed, and waiting for her a few seconds later in the changing room.
Speaking of chores Elizabeth.... Her companion tells the computer to 'print' his blue suit... indicating that they are recycled rather than washed after each use. NO MORE WASHING!
I better hurry and finish this book before this is old tech... instead of futuristic Ooooo ahhhh tech.
I can see an interesting area of the "more robotic" 3D printing, a bit more like the chocolate machine. Consider making stuff out of ceramics by laying down a string of that "slip" material. Another possibility would be building structures from long-strand fiberglass with a resin coating applied as it is extruded. Also, how about extruding a larger diameter string of glass fiber stiffened concrete to make outdoor furniture.
The very thin layers are fine for those items needing very fine details, but there is a whole huge realm of things built up with much coarser details. Of course, at some point it becomes much more a robotic process instead of the very thin process that we are familiar with. As we open up to somewhat different approaches the realm of things that can be produced grows very large. Of course, the robotic printing process will need a whole new level of robot direction software for it to be able to work from a cad file of some sort, but in that area the software will be the only obstacle, since industrial robots are a quite mature technology, as far as the hardware goes.
So if somebody takes one of these ideas and gets rich with it, just remember where the suggestion came from, keep the money and give me the credit.
Most of the items shown are gimmicks, in the sense that they were created solely to demonstrate the ability to make them by 3-D printing. For example, the stool could be far stronger and cheaper if made from wood. The plastic shoes and phone stand also look as though they could be made better and cheaper by conventional plastic molding. I have to admit that the gown, whether practical or not, is certainly besutiful on the model. Not so the cape.
The item that best exploits the one-of-a-kind capability of 3-D printing is the custom prosthetic jaw.
Festo's BionicKangaroo combines pneumatic and electrical drive technology, plus very precise controls and condition monitoring. Like a real kangaroo, the BionicKangaroo robot harvests the kinetic energy of each takeoff and immediately uses it to power the next jump.
Design News and Digi-Key presents: Creating & Testing Your First RTOS Application Using MQX, a crash course that will look at defining a project, selecting a target processor, blocking code, defining tasks, completing code, and debugging.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.