Are 3D Printers the future?
Additive manufacturing, which is another name for 3-D printing, is a term that refers to the process of synthesizing solid three-dimensional objects from a digital file. Nowadays it is definitely changing the way we produce things- tools, clothing, car parts, toys and food. Smaller and consumer-friendly 3-D printers are now available on the market for homes and private businesses.
The first step in printing an object is creating its blueprint in modeling software and saving it. When the saved data is input, material (most commonly plastic) begins to melt with heat created by lasers, then deposits and instantly cools down creating solid matter. This process is repeated until the structure is fully formed by layering.
Latest 3-D printers have nano-precision and hence can create incredibly fine details. The technology used to produce structures on a nanometer scale is called two-photon lithography. It was introduced by researchers at the Vienna University of Technology who managed to speed up the process to the extent that they can even produce body parts. One indicator of big improvement is that printing speed was measured in millimeters per second and this new device can do five meters in only one second.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, biotech companies made efforts to research possible methods of human tissue engineering using 3-D printing in order to be able to build body parts and organs. This became doable with the use of the inkjet techniques by depositing living cells layer by layer on a gel medium and gradually building up to create 3-D structure. Utilization of 3-D printing in medicine is referred to with the term bio-printing. This field has exponential growth and new acquirements are seen on a daily basis.
Another important role in modern 3-D printing was played by chemists. The resin contains photoactive cells which are activated when they absorb two photons of the laser beam at once – this happens only in the center of the laser beam. These cells are actually initiators of a chain reaction in other components in resin. Opposed to commonly used 3-D printing techniques, solid material can be created anywhere within the resin. This saves a lot of time in the entire producing process.
Lately, researchers at Princeton University printed bionic human ear, which uses biology electronics and can receive signals up to million times higher than an average human ear. 3-D printers in China built 10 houses in a day with costs lower than 5,000 $ per house. It is also predicted that NIke could be only software company in just ten years time, thanks to 3-D printing. It is obvious that these machines are just becoming more powerful. So, we can definitely expect printed future with low expenses and fascinating inventions.