The strange products of 3-D printing

by RAKSHA DONDAPATI Staff Writer

As 3-D printing technology is advancing, it has accumulated many uses, some of which are quite odd or unexpected.

3-D printing, or additive manufacturing, creates solid three-dimensional objects using a digital model. This occurs through a process in which layers of material are added in small amounts.

This form of printing is said to have to ability to make virtually any object, and some odd and fascinating things have definitely come out of it, like one innovative mode of transportation.

The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company has created the Airbike with nylon powder using a 3-D printer with an added laser. The bike is about 65 percent lighter, but has the same amount of strength as a regular bicycle.

Weapons have also been produced through this type of manufacturing.

Cody Wilson, an law student at the University of Texas, printed the Liberator gun, made completely out of plastic except for a metal nail. The gun can shoot a .380 caliber bullet. Wilson and his team distributed the blueprint online, but were forced to remove it by the U.S. State Department. The guns are now on sale for $25.

3-D printing is apparently quite helpful in the medical world as well.

An artificial lower jaw was made by metal parts manufacturer LayerWise from titanium powder. It has bioceramic coating and is completely working. It has been given to an 83-year-old woman. The artificial jaw is about one-third heavier, but doctors say the woman will become accustomed to it in time. False teeth were added in a follow-up surgery.

Surgeons replaced 75 percent of a man’s skull with a plastic substitute produced from a 3-D printer. The implant is called the OsteoFab Patient Specific Cranial Device. The company that created it, Oxford Performance Materials, has plans on making implants for the rest of the body.

“I think this is going to be very helpful in the medical world and really help a lot of people, even save their lives,” said freshman Raghavi Nimmala.

Scientists have also developed a 3-D printer for stem cells. The printer creates small drops of living embryonic stem cells early enough in development that they can develop into any kind of tissue. Researchers use the cells to test drugs and to build scraps of tissue.

Doctors hope to use 3-D printing to print organs in the future and use printed stem cells to grow organs from scratch.

It can also benefit the music world.

Designer Olaf Diegel works with customers to create printed guitars. They are able to choose color, wood, and other personalized aspects. He claims that these guitars have a great sound.

It has reached the fashion world, too.

The Voltage collection, designed by Iris van Herpen, went down the runway during Paris Fashion Week. Both hard and soft materials were incorporated into the design of the clothes, which included a form-fitting dress and cape-skirt combination.

3-D printing is also allowing parents see their unborn baby in a whole new way.

Brazilian company Tecnologia Humana 3D can create physical copies of an embryo or unborn baby using sonogram data. Founder Jorge Roberto Lopes dos Santos wishes to use this to help blind parents feel their baby, even though they cannot see them on a screen.

“This could help families, especially blind families, get to know their child in a closer way before it has ever been born, which I think it pretty great,” said freshman Allie Hommer.

Japanese company Fasotec can turn MRIs of a fetus into a small 3-D model of the fetus surrounded by a clear tummy. They can be used as paperweights, cell phone charms, or even just as a decoration.

There is much more anticipated for the future of 3-D printing.

NASA has announced that it will fund the construction of the first 3-D food printer with the hope that it will provide food for astronauts on long journeys. It could later become an everyday kitchen appliance, and families would be able to simply print their dinner.

Billionaire Peter Thiel is giving money to Modern Meadow to create 3-D printed meat, but it may be a while until it reaches consumers.

Architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars of Universe Architecture has plans to produce a 3-D printed home. He will work with Enrico Dini, creator of the D-Shape 3-D printer. They plan to print pieces of the frame using sand and inorganic binder. Then they will fill the frame with fiber-reinforced concrete. Ruijssenaars hopes that the project will be completed in 2014.

“I think that what 3-D printing has accomplished so far is amazing and could lead to a lot of great stuff in the future, and I can’t wait to see what that is,” said an anonymous sophomore.


Which product of 3-D printing interests you the most?

  1. Bicycle

  2. Weapon

  3. Artificial jaw

  4. Artificial skull

  5. Stem cells

  6. Guitar

  7. Clothing

  8. Model of unborn baby

  9. Future possibilities


View Results


#3dprinting #RakshaDondapati

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