If you’re wondering what on Earth is a 3-D printer anyway?
You’re not alone!
This is a new and growing technology but it does sound at first listen like you should go out and get a pair of those flimsy red and blue cellophane glasses that used to be used to watch movies in 3-D before you attempt to do anything with a 3-D printer!
However, a 3-D printer doesn’t have anything to do with classic Sci-Fi films from the fifties or sixties! And if fact the term 3-D “printer” really is a misnomer because a 3-D printer doesn’t print at least not in the way we traditionally think of a printer printing with black or color ink on paper. Instead a 3-D Printer can easily be considered a younger brother technology to the Star Trek replicator technology* as 3-D printers utilize metal, plastic and other materials to create physical items in 3-D based upon whatever information you input into them.
For example, if you owned a 3-D printer and had a favorite picture of your cat – you can scan the photo and have the printer create a new case for your iPod that feature the photo of your cat on the back! Or you could create a fantasy figure on your iPad and then have your 3-D printer create a physical copy of that figure. The iPod and fantasy figure are both simple examples of what this technology can do. In theory you use a number of materials both organic and non-organic with these types of printers and create everything from clothing to houses to replacement organs. The organs part hasn’t come to fruition yet; however, clothing has been created via a 3-D printer there are already people experimenting creating building materials to be used in creating a house with a 3-D printer.
And add to all of those previous items that the fact that the price of the technology has dropped drastically so a 3-D printer that would have cost $20,000 just a few years ago can now be purchased for $1,000 and you have an emerging technology that just may be the next big tech thing. Granted, $1,000 is a steep price for a printer and it doesn’t figure in the cost of the printing (creating) supplies but you can see how this technology has the potential to revolutionize the way we live and work.
Imagine creating a toy and then being able to print out copies of it and sell it or give it to all the kids in your family as a holiday gift. Imagine buying a clothing design online, or creating one yourself, and then being able to create a wearable version of it via a 3-D Printer. Imagine being able to create replacement car parts, plumbing parts and even chocolate figures of your own design at home via your 3-D printer. Or create a new handbag with a spring, summer, autumn or winter related design whenever you want to and then print (create) that bag via your 3-D printer so it perfectly compliments that new outfit you just bought. All of that is the tip of the iceberg as far as the potential of what people can and will create with 3-D printers in the near future. This is very exciting technology!
And here are links to two articles that offer a bit more information on the subject:
The first link is to a CNN article titled Obama’s speech highlights rise of 3-D printing – here’s the link:
And the second article is from the New York Times and is titled On the Fast Track to a 3-D-Printed Future. Here’s the link:
Have a great day everyone!
Bilton, Nick. (2013, February 17). Disruptions: On the Fast Track to Routine 3-D Printing. New York Times. Online.
Gross, Doug. (2013, February 13). Obama’s speech highlights rise of 3-D printing. CNN. Online.
* The Star Trek television series all feature replicator technology. For example, in the Star Trek The Next Generation series a character approaches a replicator station which features a small high tech dumb waiter style sliding door and a voice command panel – the character then clearly speaks describing the food, or other item, he or she desires and presto the item is delivered. So Captain Picard can approach a replicator station and say “Earl Grey, hot;” and presto the replicator door slides open and a cup of steaming hot Earl Grey tea appears!