One of the most exciting advances in modern technology is 3-D printing. With the explosion of affordable printing systems, innovation has flourished. 3-D printing seems futuristic, but it has actually been around for more than 30 years — 3D Systems points out that stereolithography was invented in 1983 by Chuck Hull, and the first 3-D printer was born from this technology.
While currently slower and less efficient than many traditional manufacturing methods, 3-D printing is set to radically alter the way we look at manufacturing. Here is a look at some of the most innovative uses of 3-D printing technology today:
The idea behind 3-D printing is that a material is extruded from a cartridge into a specific, pre-programmed form. In this way, it isn’t much different from making a molded chocolate. By replacing the plastic extruder material with melted chocolate, any shape can be printed in a delicious form. The Chocedge was one of the first 3-D printers to be designed specifically to print chocolate, but the market is currently exploding with candy and chocolate printers.
Candy isn’t the only foodstuff being printed, either. The Verge reports that NASA has funded Anjan Contractor to develop solutions for printing food, such as pizza, to feed astronauts. They also hope to help solve food shortages around the world by reducing waste. The first food printed by this project was a pizza with dough that actually cooked during the printing process.
The technology reached a new plane of innovation and controversy with the creation of the first printed firearm, the Liberator. While the idea of anyone with a printer and the Internet being able to download a gun may seem dystopian, it’s a perfect example of how radically game-changing 3-D printing really is. Apple Rubber refers to 3-D printing as a disruptive technology, meaning that it can radically alter the market with new values and methods of production. Although the model that the FBI printed exploded instead of firing a bullet, the creator of the Liberator posted a video of himself successfully firing the gun. The possibility of arming soldiers in the field with a single 3-D printer may be far away, but the innovation is stirring.
3-D printed instruments are also breaking out of the traditional manufacturing molds. Cubify offers a selection of printed guitars that are stunningly designed and customizable to fit your exact specifications. The idea that you could print a guitar body at home is groundbreaking to say the least.
Although amplified instruments are already being printed, classical instruments are a long way away from this technology. At the TED Amsterdam conference in 2013, Joanna Wronko, a classically trained violinist, compared the sound and quality of a classic violin with a 3-D printed one. 3Ders reports that the audience and the musician clearly preferred the sound from the traditional violin. Wronko did admit that the idea of amplifying a 3-D printed violin is feasible, but she also pointed out that it was far heavier than a traditional violin. Despite this, practice or beginner violins may be the next big movement in classical musical education.
About the Author: Kevin Flanagan is a freelance writer living in Phoenix, Arizona. He specializes in technical writing, business writing and entertainment. Kevin has been a featured speaker on a wide variety of topics at several events in the Phoenix metropolitan area, ranging from theater to historiography.