3D Printing

How many of you all have already heard of 3D printing? This really blew me away (and made me wonder if Tyler Cowen might have been a touch premature with his “great stagnation” thesis). I’m sure my fairly active imagination can only envision a tiny portion of the potential applications of this technology.

And since there is an XKCD, as ppnl recently suggested, for every occasion, there’s only one way to complete this post.

About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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7 Responses to 3D Printing

  1. BSK says:

    My question is, does the material match? That wrench was made of metal. If the molecules or whatever it is that is being assembled into the object aren’t metal, or don’t contain the necessary elements to create metal, won’t you end up with something that looks like a wrench but is not?

  2. Coolest thing ever, huh!? Here are some more links for you to check out: http://fab.cba.mit.edu/ and http://www.ted.com/talks/neil_gershenfeld_on_fab_labs.html

    I’m a HUGE optimist about these technologies.

  3. James Hanley says:

    BSK, The materials are a resin-infused polymer, I think. The powder is some kind of polymer, and the “printing” process infuses the resin layer by layer. Is it as strong as a real metal wrench? No, but it look surprisingly strong–the guy could tighten the nut tight enough that he couldn’t loosen it by hand. If it’s enough cheaper (and if it’s not yet, I’m sure it will become so), it’s more cost effective for many average folks who don’t need a top-of-the-line metal wrench. But it’s not just tools like that that it could be used for.

    Christopher, It looks interesting. Do you know of a descriptive video where the narrator doesn’t ramble so much? (Not to criticize Gershenfeld–he was giving a talk, not making a video.)

  4. I don’t have any videos that are better than the Gershenfeld one. The preferred term up until recently was “fab lab” for “fabrication laboratory”, but sometime in the last year, pr folks decided “3-D printing” had a better ring to it, so there was a missing link of sorts for those of us who’ve been religiously following media coverage.

    I could find was this post by Cowen from 2005: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2005/03/fab_labs.html

    and this Economist article from this year: http://www.economist.com/node/18114221

  5. ppnl says:

    Yeah these kind of things have been around for a while. Currently there is an attempt to make a 3d printer that can produce copies of itself. I for one welcome our new rapidly prototyped overlords.

  6. Lance says:

    Too cool.

    I’m curious about the “scanner”. Was it an MRI or Cat scanner or did it just get all the information it could from the external surfaces of the copied object?

    Theoretically a spectroscopically enabled 3- D printer could reproduce any object, including organisms, if instead of powdered polymer and resin it somehow assembled atoms and molecules.

    If it made a copy of you and then “you” were vaporized at the scanner would you just have been “tele-ported”?

    Make sure there aren’t any flies in the scanner with you.

  7. BSK says:

    Good question, Lance. I wondered how it replicated internal moving parts that couldn’t be sensed from a surface scan. It needs a way of determining what is inside and how parts relate to one another. How did it know that the gear on the wrench was supposed to be situated to move as opposed to fix? I’m just completely baffled by this whole thing!

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