3D Printing: Coming to everyday products
by Michael Bradley
Three dimensional printing is already here and will change your entire world as you know it; more so than the cell phone and wireless applications. 3D printing will allow you to manufacture customized items at home with the ease you currently download a song, post on Facebook, watch a movie on Netflix, or read a book on Kindle. The next generation may not even grow up knowing what a "regular" store looks like.
Most of you are familiar with the workings of the old ink jet printers. They took an image of a document or picture, digitized it into a bit map of colors, and then sprayed ink on a paper. That ink was typically black, red, yellow and blue. The ink jet spray was primarily two dimensional, it had length and breadth. If you were to run your finger over it, you might feel depth, but it had no purpose.
Three dimensional printers work in a nearly identical way. Instead of ink, you have cartridges of high quality polymers. You can color them if you wish. The printer takes a three dimensional object, or a computer design and digitizes it. Instead of spraying one layer, it builds the object one layer at a time. As it grows in height, the polymer dries and becomes a solid object. Already this technology has allowed the design of plastic support beams that are a thousand times the strength of a standard steel beam. The computer modeling allows you to print designs so intricate that standard machining equipment would be challenged to make.
3D Printers Are On-Sale Now
Imagine if you will the latest advertisement for Nike tennis shoes. You click on the ad and it pulls up schematics and prices. You download the schematic just like a music file. You can then manipulate color, size; even put your own logo on the side. Complete customization will be available on your computer. When you are satisfied, you press PRINT. Next to you, your new pair of shoes is printed out for you at your home; you put them on, and then go running.
Nearly Any Design is Printable
It is the very dawn of personal home manufacturing. Next to a replicator on Star Trek it is the next best thing. In theory, the application should work if loaded with food products. Hungry late at night? No need to drive to Taco Bell, just download their application for a taco, press the button, and your food paste is printed out for you. It might sound disgusting now, but it may also be our future.
So Easy To Use - Children Already Making Objects
So much power has already presented problems. A man made a design for an automatic machine gun which could be printed on existing 3D printers. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) arrested him and his blueprints under the charge he was manufacturing prohibited firearms without a license. He argues he sold computer pictures, no weapons. The law is still catching up with this new technology and will likely lag behind for many years. Lawmakers often do not even understand a new technology, and evidenced by the introduction of the disastrous SOPA bill last year.
The World's First Known 3D Printer All-Polymer Machine Gun
There are many inventions on the horizon and we are still incorporating current technology into our daily lives. However, it is hard to make the case that any will change your life more in the next twenty years than 3D Printing and home manufacturing.