I was reading the other day about this “new” invention called 3D Printers, new to me at least. I am assuming you heard of them but I will explain them so if you been living on an island for the last 30 years somewhere with Tom Hanks, me, and Wilson.
A 3D Printer is simply, a printer that prints anything in three dimensions rather than two dimensions. It is pretty old technology that was invented by Tom Hull in 1983 as reported on the inventor’s website 3D Systems. I was shocked when I read that it has been around so long and only made into the mainstream public’s realm till recently. So I started doing more research. They are quite fascinating when you start thinking about their ability.
How they work
The way a 3D printer works is almost the same as a regular printer. The difference is the 3D printer uses other materials to “print” rather than ink. “Printer” is really an inaccurate word for the device, it should be called 3D duplicator/builder. Because that is exactly what it does. It copies exactly any thing you introduce into it and it makes an exact duplicate using materials like: wax, plastic, thermoplastics, PolyJet Photopolymers, as advertized for sale and use on Stratasys business website. There are over 100 materials that can be used as the ink “medium.” In my mind that makes the machine amazingly valuable.
3D Objects that have been printed
Let’s look at the things the 3D printer has been able to print realistically and with functional utility. You are gonna be amazed at what this machine can “print.”
Printed Body Parts
Yep, You read it right. Scientists, doctors and bio-engineers have created functioning body parts that can be used to actually help people. I shit you not and you can read it on Popular Science because I am not even close to smart enough to explain it to you. They have currently done an ear, skin grafts, and bones, blood vessels, and a kidney that isn’t yet functional for transplant but it is estimated will be fully functional with in a few years and the best part is the body won’t reject it because it will have the same DNA as the recipient.
NASA has been messing with the technology for a longtime and one of the questions they asked themselves, can we make edible food? They started working on printing 3D Food. This one I can explain but if would like to read more, go to gizmag. The way it works is with cartridges like we are used to in a conventional ink printer, black for black and another cartridge for color ink. I think we all know this but checking anyway. The Food 3D printer uses cartridges but each cartridge has different components of the pizza. One has sauce, one has liquified cheese, and the last has dough. Imagine that and the best part is the cartridges are shelf stable for 30 years. That solves a huge space travel problem of what to eat when they go on long mission like to Mars. Spacecraft aren’t big enough to stock food for a mission that length, not it can and the printer can make other foods as well. This is some crazy stuff that Captain Kirk didn’t even have on the starship USS Enterprise.
The Germans have figured out a way how to print a fully functioning car. A freaking car, can you imagine, one part at a time and they fit it together like a giant puzzle. Read about it here on Wired. It isn’t cost or time efficient but neither was developing micro chips when the technology was young and look at the cost of those now. Flat panel monster size TVs were expensive, now they are a day’s pay. Cost drops significantly as inventions age as seen throughout history. The factories today will one day be replaced by large printing facilities. Amazing stuff.
I could go on and on listing all the things this 3D printer is capable of “printing.” I can’t get my mind around that term, “printing,” but I do see the benefits to this technology. But I also see great dangers as well. In my next article I will explain the dangers that 3D printers are to society and why they need to be heavily regulated and kept out of most people’s hands.
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