Hardware

10 Interesting and Futuristic 3D Printing Applications

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3D-printed ceramic cup by Shapeways

3D printing is a revolutionary new way to manufacture almost anything imaginable. The possibilities are nearly limitless, and many diverse, new and interesting applications of this technology are being implemented every day.

3D printing is unique because of how it constructs things. Instead of carving things out like a CNC machine does, a 3D printer applies layer after layer of a liquid material, a kind of melted material that has the function of printer ink that dries on contact with air. Laminating any object into existence, one layer at a time. This is also notable because little to no materials are wasted are left over in the process, except for the occasional support structure for a particularly delicate project, which is later easily removed from the finished model.

1. You can print an ancient artifact (more precisely, its replica)

For example, an ancient artifact is unearthed by archaeologists. It is a one of a kind remnant of a lost civilization. Collectors, historians, and museums the world over begin to salivate at the chance to examine the artifact, or at the very least to acquire a replica of it. But casting the artifact to make a mold could damage or even destroy it. But 3D printers don’t use a mold, instead they use a computer rendered model shell of the object. This digital draft can be creatively made by hand, or a real object can be scanned, and its virtual model uploaded. Scanning the artifact won’t damage it, and it can now be reproduced again and again.

2. You can print expensive car parts

Comedian Jay Leno uses 3D printers to support his well known love of classic cars. Classic cars are antique, and replacement parts have long ago stopped being produced by automotive companies, leaving a classic car owner with few options to replace it. Instead of scouring ebay for a lucky find, or going back and forth between a manufacturer who might recreate the part imperfectly, Jay uses 3D printers, of course. He can scan a broken part, fix or patch it on the computer, then print it out and restore his beloved antique, all without ever leaving his garage.
3. You can print a cup

Remember when you broke your favourite cup and then never managed to get a hold of such a wonderful cup? You just might be able to hold your old cup once again, since some 3D printers can now print using melted coloured ceramic as printer ink. All you need is a model of your desired cup and a 3D printer and you’re ready to resurrect your old friend and bring enjoyment back to having your morning coffee.

3D-printed cake by Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories

4. Food can be used for printing

Liquifying a food sounds disgusting, but it has never looked better. A food gel in a special 3D printer can create food sculptures. They are safe to eat, and the paste can be made out of chocolate, vegetables, or even meat.

5. Not all 3D printing ideas are fun

University of Texas student Cody Wilson leased 3D printers for a more nefarious purpose. He planned on creating plastic single-use firearms to create and distribute cheaply. However, when the leasing company, Stratasys, discovered what he was planning to do with their printers, they confiscated the printers before he could complete his project.

6. You may even be able to print a home soon

Soon, homes will be made cheaply and quickly by enormous 3D printers which use concrete instead of plastic to form walls. A robotic arm places roof supports and electronics and plumbing within the walls. These homes are cheaper and faster to construct than any structure except emergency housing. In less than a day, a new home of any shape or dimension can be constructed. Additionally, because of the strong fibrous concrete needed for the printer, and enhanced structural design, the concrete walls are many times stronger than conventional concrete walls.

7. Astronauts can take 3D printers to space

NASA is looking at this technology to construct lunar structures and tools or parts needed for unexpected repairs, with regolith found on the moon as the base material for the printer. An unmanned mission could have a moon base up and running before waves of human tourists arrive.

8. You can 3D print a 3D printer

A 3D printer can make anything, even other 3D printers! Reprap is an open source project whose goal is to make 3D printing available to everyone worldwide. They have made and released a few different models. All of the plastic components can be created by the printer, just add a simple motor and some electronics. All the processing is done in the user’s computer.

9. 3D printers are also used in medicine

Scientists and doctors are currently developing a 3D printer which will be able to create organs out of organic materials suitable for transplant patients. Another team is working on creating replacement cartilage with a 3D printer.

10. Some lucky students can use 3D printers for free

Students at Virginia Tech can use a public machine called the DreamVendor. With a CAD design on an SD card any student can bring their virtual creations into the real world, free of cost! What do they usually print? Jewelry and sculptures.

If you had a 3D printer, what would you print?

Article by: Ink Station, online source of cheap ink and toner cartridges.

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1 Comment

  1. I’m excited to see 3d printers get below the $1000 price point. I’d probably just make some fun stuff for around the house like personalized wall switch plates.

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