3D Printing Just Got Creepier - Introducing 'Mini-me'
The number of different applications of 3D printing technology is growing rapidly, and in combination with the declining costs of printers, it is clear that it is here to stay. This article describes how this technology is used and touches on some possible future applications.
Fun 3D printing applications
During a pop-up store event in New York recently, featuring all types of designs ranging from shoes, ceramic cups and jewelry printed with custom designs, the first three-dimensional mini-figurines were introduced and they became an instant hype. Now even UK supermarket clients can have their own mini versions printed, on-site.
Figurines are created with the use of 3D scanning and printing technologies, incorporating photogrammetry to create accurate models of the customer, capturing each and every detailed feature such as jewelry, clothing, shades of lipstick and facial expression.
During a 15-minute process, the customer is photographed from every possible angle by 50 cameras. The images are then collated, incorporating body measurements as well as shapes and lifelike colors, and then printed by a state-of-the-art printer that can create 390,000 colors. After the scanning process, it only takes 24 hours for the end product to be ready.
Serious 3D printing applications
This type of application is becoming increasingly popular and widely used, with all the main printing companies jumping on the 3D bandwagon. This type of technology is used for a range of different applications such as design validation, molding and casting and fine feature applications.
Printing companies' addition of 3D scanning and printing services creates a huge number of prototype testing and development options for manufacturing and engineering. The marketing sector will also hugely benefit from this new technology by being able to produce comprehensive visuals. The medical world is already using this printing technology for the creation of prosthetics.
Scary 3D print applications
As revolutionary and fun as 3D printing can be, it certainly has a dark and dangerous side as well. One example is the use of this technology to create guns. The first 3D printed handgun was shot in May of this year, by Cody Wilson. Shortly after that, and luckily only up until recently, blueprints were freely available on his website. This proves that this way of printing does not only change and disrupt manufacturing in many ways, it can also have serious consequences for gun control and general law enforcement. It will be near impossible to stop people from printing weapons or any other potentially dangerous items in their own homes.
Some examples of possible future applications
The potential for three-dimensional printing, especially in the medical field, is vast. Currently, research into and testing of live tissue printing, also called bio-printing, is being done in Japan where functional kidneys are created by printing thin sheets of living tissue, obtained from donor cells.
Other future plans include the stationing of a printer on the International Space Station for printing rocket parts and spacecraft, and using lunar dust for printing construction materials.
The use of protein powder to create food for space flights is also in the pipeline. This powder is mixed with muscle cells extracted from pigs or cows and used as bio ink with which the printer can print cells which develop into muscle tissue. After shaping, cooking and flavoring this tissue, it is then ready for consumption.
3D printing is here to stay.