By Allen Foster
There’s a gut-wrenching scene in “Skyfall” (2012) when the bad guy, Raoul Silva, blows up James Bond’s beloved (and very expensive) Aston Martin. It’s a rather realistic looking effect, one that made us all cringe and clench our fists in anger. Thankfully, through the magic of Hollywood, the real car didn’t get obliterated. Do you want to know what did? A scale 3D-printed replica.
That’s right, half a decade ago, the things that were being accomplished via 3D printing were already astounding. Just imagine what’s being done today. And if you think that’s mind-blowing, wait until you hear what’s in store for the future. To get you excited about this incredible technology, here’s a quick overview revealing what we can create now… and what is coming in the not too distant future.
All Things Plastic
If you can draw it, you can 3D print it. Everything from a tripod adapter for your camera to comic book action figures. Toys, masks, artwork, figurines, switch plates, a phone case and more. Whether it’s functional or fun, plastic (Nylon/Polyamideis) is a wonderful medium that has a multitude of uses.
From Cabinet Knobs To Car Parts
Through laser deposition technology (LDT), which can print in droplets as small as 0.005 inches, it is possible to create high-definition metal objects. These can be aesthetic pleasures such as jewelry and sculptures or they can be exquisitely designed parts of your home such as faucets, cabinet knobs, hinges and more. Additionally, printed metal objects can take on a much more utilitarian aspect and include such items as machine parts and highly customized tools.
Believe it or not, the Lewis Grand Hotel in The Philippines features the first-ever operational commercial structure created using 3D technology. Specifically, the building was printed out of concrete! The suite is an impressive 10.5 meters by 12.5 meters by 4 meters and it includes two bedrooms, a living room and a Jacuzzi.
Although there is no liquid or “ink” involved, through a process called “additive manufacturing,” small, uniformly cut pieces of wood can be combined to “print” household items such as furniture, bowls, bookends, picture frames and more. The added bonus of printing with wood is that the technology allows for a mixing of materials to create hybrid materials with remarkable new properties.
Yes, glass! Currently, machines that print with molten glass are in the early stages of development. Consider how dot matrix was the rather crude predecessor to modern day printers. Cables of molten glass are coiled or drizzled in layers to create beautiful products that look like they were constructed of crystal rope.
The technology for printing food is only in its infancy, but it does exist. Crystalized sugars, delectable coils of chocolate, pizzas, pastas, brownies and even quiche. The selection is currently limited, but as culinary art becomes culinary science, you can undoubtedly expect vending machines of the future to offer virtually any food you desire at the mere press of a button.
The future of printable replacement body parts is fast approaching. Using a process that has been dubbed 3D bioprinting, research is already being conducted on the viability of manufacturing artificial hearts, kidneys and livers. Just imagine, the next time you injure yourself, instead of rushing to the nearest urgent care center, you might be hitting your local 3D print shop instead.