3D printing. The future is now.

A 3D printer.

A 3D printer.

This is a 3D printer. Full article. If you haven’t seen these around, it’s worth doing a bit of reading. The basic idea is that instead of ink on a flat surface, the printer uses extruded plastic to build up a 3 dimensional object. Most, like the one above, are fairly small.

Some are smaller, like a 3D printing pen.

Here’s a video of another type that can print with felt. Read more. This system is also capable of including metal parts to include speakers, among other things.

Metal printing.

Metal printing.

3D printers can also be used for creating metal parts. The Japanese are trying it out for heavy industry and robotics.

They’re not the only ones. NASA have printed and tested 3D printed parts for launch rockets.

3D printing is not only for toys and industrial parts.

NotImpossible-3d-printed-hands-and-arms-3

Prosthetic limbs can and are being 3D printed, to provide injured people with assistance at a much lower cost than conventional prosthetics. And if a part breaks, another can be printed. Perhaps even from the same material, recycled.

Wow, this is a heart wrencher of a 3D Printing story. We have already seen many prosthetics 3D Printed in the past, from legs, to hands, to eyes, to noses. In my opinion this is probably the most impressive 3D printed prosthetic to date. An organization called Not Impossible Labs, whose slogan is “Technology For The Sake of Humanity,” has 3D Printed an entire Prosthetic arm. Not only that but these arms are being printed out in bulk for amputees in war torn Sudan.

Other designers worked on a different scale.

In China houses are being printed at the rate of 10 in one day. These homes are fairly simple structures, made from concrete. There are a lot of other materials being investigated for 3D building, including foams and even silk. What I’d really like to see Australia do is use hempcrete. Hemp in building is a fantastic material, resistant to termites, damp and fire as well as being a natural product and carbon sink.

I’m excited to see technology developing that will allow various types of used plastics to be recycled for use in 3D printers. One type uses old milk containers. Hopefully it won’t be long before a printer for bio-plastics will be available. That’s plastic made out of organic materials like hemp, soy, apricot stones or nut shells.

In typical consumer fashion, some companies are working on developing 3D printers for home use. This is not necessary, a printer at home would spend most of its time idle. A mechanics’ institute or even community centre or library could house a few different types of 3D printers and recycling systems for public use. The housing and industrial printers could be community owned and leased or shared around, since they work so fast the one machine could move between new building sites.

Imagine living in a home that you own because it’s so affordable, made with 3D printed hempcrete and having all the utilities and technology you need. Everything from bio-digesting sewage and grey water recycling to solar to high speed internet cabling is included in the planning and construction. When you would like a new smart phone, so you select a design from the internet and take an old phone or a few other bits and pieces up to the library. The hoppers take the things apart, sort and prepare the materials. The public printer goes to work and in a few minutes you have your new phone.

Personally I’d prefer to see these open source designs focus on durability and include options for upgrading. But when the source materials are largely recycled or organic and the energy to run the printer comes from solar power, it wouldn’t really matter. Gone are the days of shipping container loads of cheap fossil fuel plastics all over the planet. You can produce the things you need locally. You can choose from a variety of different blueprints. The scope for open source and independent design is huge. Almost anyone can create, test and develop things using this technology. It’s one of the most incredible new technologies around. Best thing since sliced bread.

When we’re using them to print robots to help automate our labour, even better.

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About Syburi

Witch, bitch, creatrix; hippie, dreamer, gardener. Lover of books, music, rescue animals, piss and vinegar.
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