In 1943, the chairman of
Therefore, while the idea of a 3D printer being in every home may seem far-fetched, it may not be very long before 3D printers clutter up our offices the way our printers do today: two on the desk and one gathering dust above a wardrobe.
Less snappily also known as additive printing, 3D printing has the potential to revolutionise business and industry and to liberate even the most disconnected markets.
Unlike most manufacturing processes which cut, drill and grind away excessive material, 3D printing adds layers of material in various shapes until a complete part or component is produced. 3D printers have been around for 30 years but the advance of digital technology and the Web have seen sales of units increase and their cost drop correspondingly. In 2010, a 3D printer would set you back
Applications for the new technology are myriad. Medicine, agriculture, military, automotive, technology, engineering, fashion, architecture and aerospace are just some of the industries which can benefit from the new process.
3D printing technologies vary, but all have a number of essential aspects in common. Aside from the above description of layer being added to layer, you begin by downloading a digital file which contains the design for the object you want to print.
The next stage does vary. Among the different solutions is one where a melted substance is applied through a nozzle, building up the object in seamless layers. But whichever method is employed, you are left with either a prototype or the finished product that is ready to use.
Now, a design can be created by a 3D printer within days for hundreds, not thousands, of dollars. The design can be easily tweaked, too, with changes printed the very same day.
Consider also the reality of being able to bioprint human organs for testing and replacement. As improbable as it may seem, it is already possible to print stem cells, which can be transformed into any other part of the human body, from hearts, livers, kidneys, bone and skin.
Till today, organ replacement meant being added to a waiting list and hoping that a donated and compatible organ becomes available before it is too late. Even in the developed world this can take years.
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