When I was a kid, I read in a sci-fi story that there was a machine which could create toys. Give this machine design of a doll and it will make you a doll in no time –exactly like the provided design. Many years later I came across the term 3D printing –and I could not believe that 3D printing was possible! Seeing an A4 paper sheet coming out of a printer has made it so tough for us to imagine a 3 dimensional object coming out of a machine after getting printed.
In fact even now, to my ears printing a 3D object sounds something odd. 3D and printing? Nah!… not possible!
But now the machine from that sci-fi story has become a reality –and in fact quite a bit commonplace reality. 3D printing gained momentum in the year 2003 and now many companies are trying to manufacture 3D printers that could be used with a desktop computer –yes, right in your home!
In essence, a 3D printed object is created by laying down successive layers of material. This technique is called “additive layer manufacturing.” There are several methods available to perform this task. In 2D printing we have choices like dot-matrix, inkjet, laser etc. In 3D printing choices come in the form of material used to create the object. So, you can choose from something like a powder printer or the polymer printer.
A good question is whether a 3D printer can print another 3D printer?! The practical answer (so far) is “No!”. At present 3D printers are practically capable of using a single material to create 3D models. These printers are good for creating machine parts, tooth implants, toys, complex models and art work. These machine can not yet prepare another complex machine.
That was about the practicality. However, if you can wait for several years; 3D printers can print you any complex machine. Parts of such a machines are printed one by one and then joined together. Just yesterday Daily Mail reported that the world’s first “printed” car has rolled out of the printer! The car was manufactured by a group of designers and engineers located in Winnipeg. This car has been named “Urbee” and it took 15 years to get printed –but it will last for 30 years because of the strength of a special composite material used in creating this car. It is very light weight. This beauty of a machine has three wheels and two seat. And by the way… it works too!… it can reach the speed of 70mph!
Urbee. World’s first “printed” car.
There are many companies which are offering you the service of doing 3D printing online. You can go to these websites, upload your 3D model and the company will print the model on an industrial 3D printer. The resulting model will be shipped to you. Some of these companies are: Shapeways, Sculpteo, Ponoko and QuickForge
All in all, 3D printers are creating a new world in front of us. In next couple of decades –this technology will grow by leaps and bounds and a time may come when we would be printing everything that we need.
Your green color toothbrush has flattened –no problem! give a command and print a brand new shiny blue brush with… hmm… a titanium handle?… er… no… golden handle will look better with your favorite design on it. Press enter and get your “designer” toothbrush ready for use.
I wonder if there would be a future when we would be able to “download” a printed pizza?… Well, probably yes!
Lets wait and watch.