Every tech website and PC magazine seem to have run articles this year on 3D printing… it has now become a hot topic!
3D Printing, or “Additive Manufacturing” to give it its technical name, is a technology that involves the progressive layering of a materials to take the shape of the object being “printed”. On the more expensive 3D printer models you can also print multiple materials in one session. These materials range from liquid, paper, powder, sheets of various other materials, or filaments. This particular electronic science has been around and in use since the 1970’s, but has only recently become affordable for the home hobbyist.
3D models are the tangible scaled or real-life versions of a digital image that has been created on a computer, using some special 3D software. 3D printing is hugely popular in design companies and architect offices where, once printed, being able to view and physically manipulate a scaled model is an enormous benefit.
3D printing enables modifications and creations that would not otherwise be readily clear on a 2-dimensional print or photograph.
Some examples of 3D printing are:
– Glasses Frames
– Prosthetic Limbs
– Titanium Jaws Bones
– Kids Toys
– Chocolates based on a 3D image of your face!
…and so much more.
The International Space Station is getting one so that they can create spare parts in space, rather than fly them out. US chat show Jay Leno has one in his garage where he uses it to make spare parts for this vintage cars. And the architects behind the new Wembley Stadium are working with the European Space Agency on designs for 3D printed lunar buildings – using moon dust as the building material!
For some pictures of what folks are creating you can visit this Pinterest board:
There are many companies that manufacture 3D printers for different parts of this fast growing sector…. They include two of the most famous:
MakerBot: A New York based company, founded in January 2009, with the goal of bringing desktop 3D printing into the home at an affordable price. Their Replicator2 3D printer, pictured below, is proving to be a huge hit in the home marketplace.
This updated version has a print area of 285 x 153 x 155 millimeters and can print at 100 microns per layer in PLA plastic.
The MakerBot Replicator 2 – 3D Printer
Their website is: http://www.makerbot.com/
Stratasys, Ltd: At the other end of the spectrum is this manufacturer of 3D printers and 3D production systems for office-based rapid prototyping and direct digital manufacturing solutions.
Their high end 3D printer is called the Objet1000, see below, and is a multi-material wide-format 3D printer for rapidly creating large, industrial size models and 1:1 scale prototypes. Featuring an ultra-large build tray of 1000 x 800 x 500 mm. With the Objet1000 you can print as many as 14 materials in a single model to achieve the precise look and feel of your intended end product.
The Stratasys Ltd Objet1000 – 3D Printer
Their website is: http://stratasys.com/3d-printers/design-series/precision/objet1000
For more information on the trending topic of 3D printing, you might find the following Wikipedia article helpful – click here.