What is 3D Printing
Also known as desktop fabrication and additive manufacturing, 3D printing is a prototyping process where a real object is created from a 3D design. 3D printing techniques were originally designed in the 90s to create inexpensive prototype parts for industrial and automotive design work. However, now the costs are falling, 3D printing is finding its way into a variety of industries.
How does it work?
There are several different 3D printing methods. In additive manufacturing, 3 dimensional objects are created from raw material in either the form of liquid or particle.
Using 3D printing turns computer models into real life objects. The printer takes different materials from biodegradable plastic filament PLA to ABS plastic to Nylon and melts it into thin layers on a surface then moves up and prints another layer. Once all layers have formed, you will be left with a physical object. The amount of detail in a 3D printed object is determined by the thinness of the layers .
3D Printed Houses
A company in China has managed to build 10 detached houses within 24 hours through 3D printing. These compact houses were constructed from waste materials pumped into layers and created for less than £3,000 each.
The houses have been made entirely of recycled materials making the houses both environmentally friendly and cost effective.
This new construction technique will hopefully result in affordable housing created faster than ever before. It is hoped that one day skyscrapers will be erected by using 3D technology.
3D Printed Living Tumours
A research lab has managed to create a 3D model of a tumor tissue that more closely replicates real tumours than the traditional 2D tissue.This could eventually lead to a better understanding of how tumors grow and more importantly, how they die.
Dr. Wei Sun has analysed the best techniques for printing both Hela cells (stain known for cervical cancer) and a support matrix similar to proteins found in surrounding cells of an organism. His team then compared how the tumour was relative to a 2D tissue culture of the same cells. The conditions required for 3D printing are primarily heat and mechanical force and are very important for the cells to live.
Future plans for research include printing with multiple types of cells, similar to tumors removed from humans. Also embedding printed cells onto other printed tissues to to further stimulate how tumours really grow.
Flying 3D printer
Engineers from the Imperial College London have built flying 3D printer drones. It is hoped that these drones will protect people from nuclear waste by printing a sticky foam on dangerous objects before attaching themselves and lifting the object away.
The engineers of the drones are hoping that one day, they will be able to print nests to the top of trees to enable the drones to recharge themselves before continuing.
According to Imperial College London, the new drones will be entirely independent and guided by GPS.