Who knew the loud dot matrix printers of the 1980s, complete with their perforated-edge paper, would give way to sleek 3D printers that can create items ranging from weapons to medical equipment? Let’s take a look at how 3D printing works and how far the technology has come since its recent inception.
What Can You Print?
In short: Almost anything can be created using a 3D printer. Here’s a look at some of the coolest (and weirdest) things created using 3D printing technology:
- Acoustic guitar
- Hand-made camera lens
- A Japanese flute
- 3D model of human fetus
- 3D printed medical models
- An iPhone case and card holder
- Coffee cups/dishes
- Small toys
The History of 3D Printing
Let’s take a look at the recent evolution of the technology.
3D systems introduces the first sterolithographic apparatus machine. The machine uses a UV laser solidifying photopolymer (a liquid with the viscosity and color of honey) that makes 3D parts layer by layer.
Scientists at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine developed the first lab-grown organ and implanted it into a human. The organs are made with the patients’ own cells.
Scientists engineer a miniature functional kidney that is able to filter blood and produced diluted urine in an animal.
Dr. Adrian Bowyer at the University of Baths founds RepRap, an open-source initiative to build a 3D printer that can print most of its own components.
The first selective laser sintering machine becomes viable, leading to mass customization and on-demand manufacturing of industrial parts, and later, prostheses.
Objet, a 3D printing systems and materials provider, creates a machine able to print with a variety of materials.
RepRap Project releases Darwin, the first self-replicating printer that is able to print a majority of its own components. This way users can print other printers for their friends.
Shapeways launches a private beta allowing artists, architects and designers to make their own 3D designs as physical objects on the cheap.
The first person walks on a 3D printed prosthetic leg.
MarketBot industries develops DIY kits that allow buyers to make their own 3D printers and products.
Bioprinting innovator Organovo uses a 3D bioprinter to print the first blood vessel.
Engineers at the University of Southhampton design and fly the first 3D-printed aircraft. It takes seven days to build.
Kor Ecologic unveils Urbee, an environmentally friendly prototype car made by a 3D printer. Urbee gets 200 mpg highway and 100 mpg city. Estimated retail: $10,000-$50,000 (if it becomes commercial viable).
i.materialise becomes the first 3D printing service worldwide offering 14K gold and sterling silver as materials.
Doctors and engineers in the Netherlands use a 3D printer made by LayerWise to print a customized prosthetic lower jaw they implant into an 83-year-old woman.