3d printing

Overrated, or future technology? Aiden J block b

What is a 3d printer?

There are many types of 3d printers, used for many different purposes. They all do different things, but they share the same base purpose. 3d printers take a file from a computer, and print it in 3 dimensions. The material that is used varies from plastic to chocolate to metal, and in some experiments, body parts can be 3d printed! The technology isn't new, in fact, it is more than 30 years old. Only now is it being used to its maximum potential.

There are quite a few types of 3d printers, including Stereolithography(SLA)Digital Light Processing(DLP)Fused deposition modeling (FDM)Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)Selective laser melting (SLM)Electronic Beam Melting (EBM)

CNN Explains: 3-D printing

How does it work?

3d printing works very similar to 2d printing, in that they both take a file and print it out. The main difference is, that with 3d printing, a 3d file is needed. Special software is used to create these files, as well as open them. The 3d printer squirts out plastic, or what ever material is used in the reel. This material could be metal, plastic, or even chocolate. This is layered over and over again to make a 3d object of the exact specifications of the file. Many websites allow users to upload their designs, and other users can download them and print them themselves. Some examples of these websites are pinshape and thinkables

Just what can this technology do?

3d printers are used more places that you would think. They are used for prototyping in companies, for prosthetic limbs, for consumer use, and surprisingly, foods like pizza have been 3d printed. There are limits, of course, as the technology is just being utilized, intricate technology can't be made. You can make the parts one by one, but the cost of printing that would be very high. The next few years may have even more growth in this ever changing industry

What can these machines create?

3d printers have many things they can create, but the possibilities are not endless. Things such as prototypes for companies, chocolate models for candy stores, even human dna is being experimented with, this can create basic structures for people who need parts of limbs to grow back. The technology for that is still new, so there are limits, but the technology will make many improvements in the near future. Many other industries benefit from this new technology, such as the aerospace industry. One question remains, can a 3d printer print another 3d printer? Actually, yes. Recently, a 3d printed 3d printer, was made with at least 70% 3d printer parts!

What is the history of 3d printers?

3d printing took off in 1980, when Dr Kodma, a Japanese technology worker, first patented the technology. His patent failed, but in 1986, a man named Charles Hull was issued a patent for stereolithagraphy apparatus. The technology was only used in business, until 2009, when the first ever commercially available 3d printer was released. ever scene then, the technology has improved greatly.

How do I get my hands on one of these?

3d printers are actually low priced, at least compared to what you think they may cost, with many consumer models costing around 750-1000$. Some cost as low as 500$. business and industrial models cost well into the thousands however. For the low low price of 18,000$, you can even get your hands on a house 3d printer. Yes, a 3d printer that prints the frame of houses. The reels of plastic for a 3d printer will cost anywhere from 30$-70$, depending on the quality. Other materials vary greatly in price.
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An example of a makerbot 3d printer, costing about 750$

Pros and cons

While 3d printing has many advantages, such as rapid prototyping and manufacturing speed, not everything is so great about this technology. If 3d printing becomes more popular, then fewer manufacturing jobs will exist, but this may be balanced out by the increase in the size of these companies. The second con of 3d printing, is that 3d printed weapons can be created with little or no restrictions at all. Many files have been taken down for such weapons, but creators can make their own files for weapons. Laws have also been passed about the usage of 3d printed weapons, so usage may drop in the future. Until then however, it is a wild west online, with new files being released each day.

3D printed food?

NASA has recently been experimenting with 3d printed food. Pizza can be made with 3d printing, step by step, in a surprisingly short amount of time. The technology uses many different rolls, first layering the dough, like a frosting holder, then the sauce, and then the cheese. This can be very useful for long travel times, such as a journey to Mars, because the powder reel is about the same size as one pizza, but it can produce many more than one pizza per reel. This means than more food can be stored on a smaller craft. Food 3d printers have a much higher average price, as unlike plastic, which has one melting point, foods that can be 3d printed, have many different melting points. While the price of the only the only market available 3d printer is high, at about 10,000$ for the full model, 5000$ for the smaller, many high quality chocolate shops may want to pick one of these up, as there could be a high market for these items. Put simply, a food 3d printer is like a food processing plant, shrunken down. With only one food 3d printer available to the average person, it could be a long time before this technology is reliably available to the public.
HD 3d printing pizza on a contract from NASA HD