No, this is not science fiction, nor did my marbles get jumbled up. What if I can sit at my computer and make you a prosthetic hand or a new ear or make a three dimensional replica of a woman’s fetus? What if I can do this with just a few spools of plastic filament and a printer? All of this and thousands of new and creative projects are part of a revolution growing across the world. It’s called the world of 3D printing. Scientists and researchers have discovered the every solid object is just a set of computer codes. Just write the codes or buy a program start and load your printer and, voila, you’ve just created your masterpiece.
Now, you are probably wondering: How does this 3D printer work? The best way is to watch this demonstration on Youtube.
The demonstration lasts about 14 minutes and you can see the printer in action.
As with any new technology the original cost was unaffordable to the general public. But we’ve seen prices of TVs and computers prices drop to levels where almost anyone can buy them. This is happening now in the 3D printer market. Prices for home models are coming down. The biggest players are Stratasys ( SSYS), 3D Systems (DDD) and Hewlett Packard (HPQ). Staples is the first large chain franchise to offer home models. You also can buy from a host of online suppliers.
There really is no limit to what you can make. If you can write to codes for it, you can print it. You can print it in plastic, metal or ceramic. Here are just a few creations:
· One of growing segments for 3D printing is the toy market. You can make all kinds of Star Wars characters, toy soldiers and toys of all sorts.
· Do you remember sitting in class doodling in your notebook. Now you can turn these sketches into 3D objects.
· You can print your own 3D iPhone case.
· 3D printing is being used successfully in medical field. Some of the uses are just astonishing. Surgeons were able to use 3D technology to reconstruct a man’s face.
· 75% of a man’s skull was reconstructed using 3D technology.
· A child’s life was saved when doctors were able to construct a special stent to clear the child’s airways.
· 3D printers are being used to take body scans and make gummi candies.
· A 3D printer made a violin. The body was 3D printed, the neck was made of cardboard and the strings were made from picture wires.
Here are some far out 3D creations:
· You can buy an app for your smartphone for about $300 that you can use as a scanner.
· Red Eye on Demand teamed up with Stratasys to make a 3D printed car, the URBEE. It travels 200 mph and can travel long distances on just a few gallons of fuel-not gas but ethanol.
· With 3D printing pen you can make sculptures out of your drawings in mid air.
· A 3D printed house can be assembled in ONE day.
· Scientists believe they can print 3D food to end hunger.
· Scientists are printing stem cells in 3D, using droplets of stem cell material.
· When the remains of King Richard III were found, one brilliant researcher reconstructed his body. 3D printing then was used to make an exact duplicate.
One of the more upsetting creations has been a 3D gun. The program was on Youtube but was pulled off. However, it’s just a matter of time before other sites around the world will have several models available.
Much like Amazon, there are a host of companies selling 3D products online. A big player here is Shapeways.