3D printing, or additive manufacture as it is also known, creates objects from a digital design using a machine that looks not unlike a conventional ink-jet printer, but using materials instead of ink to build up the object.
One of the critical changes occurring is the growing sophistication of the equipment, but also the fall in price and size. The $500 3D printer has now been made; as has a truly portable one that fits in a suitcase. This changes the level of accessibility and affordability.
The scale of what we can 3D print is also changing. At one end, the potential to 3D print a house cheaply and quickly is emerging – an application would be the production of emergency housing made in situ – which could then also be designed to ‘fit’ local terrain. Such an approach could be adapted for low cost housing, radical house renovations or high end bespoke room fittings.
At the other end of the scale are the development of 3D nano-printing and the use of cells. A recent experiment ‘broke the record’ for nano-printing, by making a model of a formula 1 car at nano-scale. Being able to operate effectively at that scale could revolutionise not only material sciences but almost any area of manufacture.
Via Szabolcs Kósa