Written by: AnonScarlett
This (picture below) is a printer used in a process known as 3 dementional printing. It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie right? I said the same thing when I was told about it. This one is industrial sized used for large scale printing but you…yes you can also own one. From at home use to mass production in factories to prosthetics in the medical field, 3D printing is changing the face of how we make things.
What is it exactly?!
The good news is Attack of the Clone isn’t happening just yet. So what IS 3D printing? 3D printing also known as additive manufacturing, is the process of making three dimensional solid objects from a file. So it’s just like printing your resume that’s saved as a file on your computer or thumb drive,except instead of using ink on paper it uses layers of plastic polymers,metals or a combination of both. While the the technology seems like something that has only come to pass in recent times, the materials and equipment were actually first developed in the ’80s. The first big step for 3D printing was made by Chuck Hull in 1984. While founding 3D System Corporation he invented a process known as stereolithography . Since the printers require a special file type, Hull also developed the STL file format which is still the preferred file type for 3D printing software, as well as the digital slicing and infill strategies common to many processes today. Some call him the grandfather of 3D printing.
Though all 3D printers print three dementional objects, not all 3D printers use the same technology to do it. In fact there are several ways to do it. Some methods use melting or softening material to produce the layers. Selective laser sintering (SLS) and fused deposition modeling (FDM) are the most common technologies using this way of printing. Another method of printing is to lay liquid materials that are made using alternative technologies . The most common technology using this method is still the stereolithography method developed by Hull back in the ’80s.
How we’re using them today
There are countless industries that have benefited from the dawn of the 3D printer but the most promising is the medical fields. Scientists are already on track to printing hearts! It may sound far fetched but, at team at the University of Louisville has already printed a heart valve as well as blood vessels, the latter of which have already been successfully tested in mice.
They hope to eventually piece together an fully functioning human heart. Science hasn’t stopped at hearts though, earlier in the year the first living, functioning and transplantable 3D printed kidneys were produced. Though they are miniature in size a good 90% of the cells in them are alive, they can perform all of the same functions a full sized kidneys and afterwards, they can survive for up to four months in a lab thanks to a rich nutrient gel. They’ve also produced other body parts like an ear that can hear better than a human one, a cast that has the potential to speed bone healing, a pelvis , and an artificial skull received by a woman in the Netherlands.
3D printing innovations are also helping the medical sector make literal strides by printing prosthetic limbs like legs. Echo is already producing athletic ones and a number of companies offer customized legs. Victims of spinal injuries have joined the club too! Earlier this month surgeons at Peking University, in Beijing successfully implanted an artificial, 3D printed vertebra replacement in a 12 year old boy with bone cancer.
This operation is the first if its kind. It’s designed to mimic the shape of the child’s original vertebra, it doesn’t need help staying in place in place like traditional spinal implants; healing should go a lot faster, too. The vertebra is full of miniature holes that will let natural bone grow inside, eventually becoming a permanent, stable part of the spine as the boy grows. This eliminates the need for any replacements or adjustments down the road.
3D partial face prosthetic for cancer patient.
Needless to say 3D printing is definitely leading us in some promising directions. If you’d like to hop on the 3D selfie bandwagon that’s going on in Britain , you can buy one of the at home printers for $500. Before you know it your wife could be printing dinner.