A simple Google search on “3D printing” in the news will lead to plenty of examples of the recent advancements in this technology. But instead of subjecting myself to an overwhelming amount of information to sort through, I’m limiting my summaries here to news stories that have come my way without searching for them. I think these few examples will provide a sense of the diversity of potential uses for 3D printing.
Staples offers “Easy 3D” service (news link)
This last December, the office supply retail store Staples announced a new service to first be launched in 2013 in stores in Belgium and the Netherlands. Customers will be able to use the Staples website to upload their 3D designs. Staples will then create the 3D objects using Mcor’s IRIS 3D printer. Customers will have the choice to pick up their objects in store, or have them delivered.
The Mcor 3D printing technology works a bit differently from others I’ve read about. Here’s how the news story linked above describes it:
“…the service will utilize Mcor’s IRIS 3D printer, which cuts regular A4 office paper to form 0.1mm layers. Photorealistic color printing of each sheet is possible in over a million colors with resolutions of 5760 x 1440 x 508dpi thanks to Mcor’s True Color technology, according to the company’s website. Each sheet is then glued together to form a compact model with a hardness close to wood. The surrounding support paper is then removed from the object by the technician.”
In my non-expert, you can anticipate an explosion of businesses offering this type of service to the common people – with multiple types of 3D printing technology competing to grab a share of this quickly expanding market.
Chocolate face sculptures created using 3D printing (news link)
This is a fun application of technology – and one that I think is likely to do good business for someone. A Japanese venture takes a scan of your face and then creates a mold in which chocolate is poured. The resulting edible product is your head in chocolate on a stick. Yum! Watch the video.
Print and fire: 3D printing could muzzle new gun (news link)
Forget about any currently proposed laws making any impact on reducing the availability of high capacity ammunition magazines if this technology is applied. This story describes how a fully functional ammo magazine clip can be made from a material similar to that of Legos. For good or bad, if you can design it or download it, you can print it. Think about that for a moment… what else could be made, and how can this technology be regulated?
Could 3D printers build a future moon base? (news link)
Whereas the other examples above are real and now, this is still out there a bit. The European Space Agency is studying the application of 3D printing to the development of a future moon base. The advantage here would be if they can find suitable ingredients on the moon for the material to be fed into a 3D printer, thus saving the huge costs and logistics of transporting structures manufactured on earth.