Movie theaters and expensive LED TVs aren’t the only tech toys going 3D these days. Lately doctors, hackers, geeks, and architects are using design software and state-of-the art 3D printers to sculpt some truly awesome stuff. 3D printers squirt molten plastic, metal, and even human tissue into shapes previously only possible through hand craftsmanship, if at all!
Check out these awesome examples of printing in the third dimension:
Using laser beams to fuse layers of recycled plastic powder into shape, fashion designers are now able to make seamless, perfect-fitting clothing from 3D laser printers with virtually no waste. The process is faster than weaving textiles, and opens up enormous possibilities for bespoke (custom made to order) clothing. Freedom of Creation, which prints 3D textiles, has some of its designs currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Inventor Enrico Dini uses his own large-scale 3d printer to literally print buildings. His Radiolara Pavilion, an egg/igloo-looking alien structure, is his first printable edifice. His massive printer binds layers of sand to form a marble-like structure. BlueprintMagazine says “Dini claims the d-shape process is four times faster than conventional building, costs a third to a half as much as using Portland cement, creates little waste and is better for the environment. But its chief selling point may simply be that it makes creating Gaudiesque, curvy structures simple.”
Since this printer requires no human to operate it, it can be used to build structures in hostile environments, possibly even on the moon.
Doctors today can use 3D printing to squirt out exact replicas of bones inside a living human body. When attached to digital CT scanners, 3D printers can be more speedy and accurate than casts or molds. This way a surgeon can practice a tricky operation on an exact copy of the patient’s innards before cutting away at the stuff that counts.
Puzzle design is a difficult, specialized art. Three-dimensional puzzle creation involves a special dose of spacial visualization and imagination. But 3D printing takes the difficulty out of constructing a 3D puzzle. Puzzle designers can (and do) now model their creations using software and then print them out in a few minutes’ time. It’s a lot quicker than whittling wood and using the “guess and check” method. But more importantly, it’s allowing for more interesting and difficult puzzles to be developed.
Though King Tut is still resting peacefully in Egypt, an exact replica of him is making the museum rounds in New York and elsewhere due to 3D printing. CT scans were taken of the mummy, and a 2-meter-long 3d printer gave meat and bones to his clone. Makeup artists then brought Tut 2.0 to life.
Heritage-Key.com explains the process: “The material used is called ‘photopolymer resin’, which is a liquid at the start of the process. A UV laser is then used to trace the shape of the model layer by layer, ‘glueing’ each one to the layer below. Each time a layer is finished, it is re-coated with liquid resin to create the next layer.”
When was the last time you heard someone say, “She looks like she was poured into those shoes!”? Today, there’s no better way to achieve a perfect fit and a seamless design than to digitize and print shoes.
Designer Pauline van Dongen says, of her 3D-printed high heel shoes, “Is the body the content and the clothes the container, or is it the other way round? My work explores the void between the body and the garment. Alienating shapes or capsules floating around the body are turned into clothes, like organic sculptures. Metal knitwear and the contrast between dark shades and bright tops create a sharp, minimalistic feel. In collaboration with Freedom Of Creation I developed an innovative shoe, which is printed three-dimensional.”
Perhaps custom, 3D-printed orthopedic shoes will be the next wave in fashion (and medicine).
High tech furniture
From flat-folding LED lamps to funky pedestal chairs, 3D printing enables furniture makers to churn out some exceptionally sexy stuff. Artisans can create high tech designs without having to stoop to cheap molds or wood glued seams. When structural and manufacturing constraints are removed (as the digitizing and printing process does), the kind of mass-production-friendly, top-tier design that can take place is pretty fantastic.
That’s correct, scientists are now printing organic material – real, living cells – to create arteries and other tissues, and hoping to eventually print full on organs like kidneys and hearts. The San Diego-based company, Organovo, has developed a 3D printer that uses two inkjet cartridges to print the living goo that makes up your guts. The hacked ink cartridges are filled with live cells and hydrogel, a material that’s sprayed down and forms a scaffolding for the cells to form on. It takes 24-48 hours for the cells to bond and become an organ.
Organovo expects to ship its 3D organ printers to researchers this year, and in 3 years they expect to be using them in human trials.
Forget watching prehistoric Piranhas through bulky theater glasses! With the growing prevalence DIY 3D printers like Makerbot and commercial 3D printers like those invented for the above-mentioned items, today’s 3D is becoming truly tangible.