3D printing 'will change the world'

Nov 16, 2013 by Helen Rowe

From replacement kidneys to guns, cars, prosthetics and works of art, 3D printing is predicted to transform our lives in the coming decades as dramatically as the Internet did before it.

"I have no doubt it is going to change the world," researcher James Craddock told AFP at the two-day 3D Printshow in Paris which wraps up later on Saturday.

A member of the 3D Printing Research Group (3DPRG) at the UK's Nottingham University, Craddock nevertheless predicted that use of 3D printing would be limited.

"You wouldn't want to make a cup from a 3D printer because it would probably fall apart, leak or poison you, but you would use it for high-value, beautiful items or ," he said.

"The real revolutionary factor is industrial use," he added.

Here is a selection of the potential future uses of 3D printing:

Arms

This is one of the more eye-catching prospects and has attracted a lot of publicity.

Californian engineering company Solid Concepts said earlier this month it had produced a metal replica of a classic 1911 shotgun.

US entrepreneur and inventor Brook Drumm, however, warned that the process of printing a gun would be slow, expensive and potentially dangerous, requiring lasers at high temperatures, lots of power and hazardous materials.

Drumm set up his firm Printrbot to produce printers costing from $400 that print plastic items.

Metal printers can cost around $250,000 (185,000 euros) and "the particulates are so fine that your skin could absorb them through the pores. The materials are not safe", he said.

The gun itself—unless made out of metal—would also be unreliable.

"There's a lot of moving parts in a gun and they need to be precise," he said, adding that he tried to print a plastic gun but gave up because it took so long.

"Time-wise, if I was going to print a plastic gun and you were going to go and buy a metal one, even if it took you two weeks to get approval I probably still wouldn't have it working first," he said.

Art

Fancy a replica of a Viking helmet or one of the Louvre's most famous sculptures on the mantelpiece?

American Cosmo Wenman has used thousands of photographs taken in some of the world's biggest museums to produce exact plastic copies.

Works he has produced include the ancient Greek statue Venus de Milo which is in the Louvre.

"If you look at the small print at museums in terms of taking photographs, they say that you cannot put them to commercial use," he said.

"But from a practical point of view that is not enforceable and for antiquities there is no intellectual property issue," he said.

Cars

Canadian Jim Kor's 3D Urbee car is made out of plastic and stainless steel.

The futuristic-looking three-wheeler is electric but uses petrol at higher speeds.

Production designer Kor says if a car company mass produced the vehicle it would be possible to keep the price down to around $16,000 (12,000 euros).

"We want it to be the Volkswagen Beetle for the next century, low cost and long-lasting too," he said.

"It should last 30-plus years. Our goal is that it should be 100 percent recyclable."

Jewellery

Jewellery can made to ensure that each piece is slightly different, known as "mass customisation".

3D printing can also make the production process far less expensive and time consuming.

Dutch jewellery designer Yvonne van Zummeren produces a range of jewellery made out of lightweight nylon polyamide.

"All my designs are based on works of art," she said holding a bracelet that uses a Matisse motif.

"It enables me to be a jewellery designer much more easily. Otherwise I would have needed a factory in China and a minimum order of 20,000," she added.

"When you are producing something for the first time it means you can adapt and try again very easily until you get the result you want."

Prosthetics

Prosthetics can be custom made to provide the perfect match.

Electronics could be built in allowing the recipient accurate control of the limb.

"It would all be printed out at the same time," said 3DPRG's Craddock.

Replacement parts

One-off parts are needed by everyone from NASA to the person who loses an unusual jacket button.

Explore further: Solid Concepts 3D prints world's first metal gun (w/ Video)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The future of 3-D printing

Oct 16, 2013

Experts in 3D printing at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Additive Manufacturing at the University of Nottingham, have helped create a ...

Amazing future for 3D printing with ESA

Oct 17, 2013

3D printing is getting ready to revolutionise space travel. ESA is paving the way for 3D-printed metals to build high-quality, intricate shapes with massive cost savings.

Crowd sourcing project to allow 3D scan-to-print web app

Aug 05, 2013

Technology to allow for printing three dimensional objects is evolving rapidly, making it difficult for some to keep up. It's also still relatively expensive. Currently, people who wish to print such an object ...

Recommended for you

Intelligent materials that work in space

Oct 23, 2014

ARQUIMEA, a company that began in the Business Incubator in the Science Park of the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, will be testing technology it has developed in the International Space Station. The technology ...

Using sound to picture the world in a new way

Oct 22, 2014

Have you ever thought about using acoustics to collect data? The EAR-IT project has explored this possibility with various pioneering applications that impact on our daily lives. Monitoring traffic density ...

User comments : 41

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

MikeBowler
Nov 16, 2013
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
h20dr
2.7 / 5 (7) Nov 16, 2013
"You wouldn't want to make a cup from a 3D printer because it would probably fall apart, leak or poison you, but you would use it for high-value, beautiful items or replacement parts," he said.

Huh? That doesn't make sense... bad writing, quoted out of context or mouth in motion before brain in gear?

... at any rate, he is correct... this will change the world... so many emerging technologies that are, in parallel, going to impact our lives, good or bad...
eachus
4 / 5 (4) Nov 16, 2013
Solid Concepts did not produce a shotgun, but an M1911A1 pistol, the handgun of choice by the US Army for over fifty years. The pistol was made of metal, and the springs in the pistol and clip were not printed. Did it work fine? Sure: http://phys.org/n...tal.html has video with some impressively tight groups.
Mike_Massen
1.9 / 5 (16) Nov 16, 2013
hmmm, to make or not to make that is the question,

whether it be nobler in the mind to simply observe and not partake,
or to take arms against a sea of technological troubles and by addressing them,
end them and relieve the world of its burden of widespread manufacture in places,

other than in our abode, the home, the castle of our soul to create to our,
hearts content and thus make all others feeble in their attempt to arrest our wealth,
which we may otherwise direct to our edification and enhancement for the health
and wealth of our most intimate friends to those of distant shores who by their,

thoughts and endeavour make us distant cousins of birds that flock together
and thus subdue to crowds & interlopers who would otherwise profit unfairly,
from our won efforts to aid the common good, of our ancestry cast before the
court of our future influence and arrive at peace at conjunction of wealth & purpose for all !
eachus
5 / 5 (1) Nov 16, 2013
Huh? That doesn't make sense... bad writing, quoted out of context or mouth in motion before brain in gear?


I hope the latter. Any sculptor (or for that matter parts manufacturer) is familiar with sand casting and lost wax (investment) casting. Either can be used to turn a plastic prototype into a metal part. The big cost in either of these approaches is usually the "tooling," making the prototype which in the lost wax process is melted away.

Cast iron is not as strong as steel (and much less shock resistant) but lots of steel castings are made every day from jet engine parts to engine blocks for trucks. The engine blocks are made by sand casting. Most automobile engine blocks today are made of (cast) aluminium, again using sand casting.

So when companies like GE say they expect to use 3d printing in 100% of their manufacturing, they are not saying that the final parts will be 3d printed, but that the moulds or other tools will be made by 3d printing.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Nov 16, 2013
While I agree that printing will change the world - especially if we think about its possible extension to the atomic scale - I do believe that quoting art or jewellery as examples isn't a good argument. Those don't change the world.
h20dr
1.4 / 5 (9) Nov 16, 2013
Maybe I should become a 'contributing author' here on physorg... just regurgitate what I read or hear, often incorrectly; interspersed with my personal opinions and masquerading as an expert on the topic at hand and get paid for it... sorta like most politicians...
ziplock9000
1 / 5 (5) Nov 16, 2013
"3D printing 'will change the world'"

Welcome to 2013, where 3D printing has been in the MSM for several years!
betterexists
1.7 / 5 (12) Nov 16, 2013
Can it print quarter coins?
betterexists
1 / 5 (11) Nov 16, 2013
Everything Made in China is so cheap that so much trash is being collected in each & every house.
3-D Printing can only add to that bulk.
If it can be useful....it should be able to use trillions of Raw materials & Those Raw materials should be available dirt cheap.
What we then need are Mega Home depots!
Then, we can 3-D Print our Pets & Shoe Laces...Broken Glasses in the Photo Frames.
Who is going to provide the specifications & raw materials? particularly after it is broken?
Telekinetic
1.7 / 5 (12) Nov 16, 2013
Change the world? It's an evolutionary step toward less cumbersome manufacturing, like automated looms supplanting the hand loom. To me, a world-changing technology would replace today's propulsion systems that only push air to one that defies gravity without props or jets. To that you can apply the hyperbole.
Protoplasmix
1.9 / 5 (14) Nov 16, 2013
So when companies like GE say they expect to use 3d printing in 100% of their manufacturing, they are not saying that the final parts will be 3d printed, but that the moulds or other tools will be made by 3d printing.

Actually, you should see the new fuel nozzles they're making for their jet engines. The old nozzles were an assembly of 18 different parts. The new ones are a single piece – they're lighter and stronger since the 'additive manufacturing' process allows for creating geometries that would be impossible to make using molds and the 'subtractive manufacturing' of drilling/milling. Ingredients are various metal powders, which allows for making different alloys in the same part – try doing that in a mold! GEAviation has a cool youtube video about it here: https://www.youtu...Xlkrmzyw Other videos and a white paper are available at GE's page on additive manufacturing here: http://www.ge.com...acturing
cont -->
Protoplasmix
1.9 / 5 (14) Nov 16, 2013
cont -->
I know all this from commenting on GE's "cold spray" 3d painting process on another recent phys.org article. In that process, the metal powder is accelerated to supersonic velocities and the kinetic energy imparted on colliding with the substrate heats it enough to weld the metal. Imagination at work, indeed :)
betterexists
1 / 5 (11) Nov 16, 2013
Much of the Energy of the Nation should be focused upon those stem cells, Nuclear Fusion and Quantum Computer Fields with Immense Potential.
Obviously, we cannot ignore other fields though.
But there is so much of stupid research in various fields...Which should be curtailed & Funds diverted to these areas from there.
eachus
not rated yet Nov 16, 2013
Actually, you should see the new fuel nozzles they're making for their jet engines. The old nozzles were an assembly of 18 different parts. The new ones are a single piece – they're lighter and stronger since the 'additive manufacturing' process allows for creating geometries that would be impossible to make using molds and the 'subtractive manufacturing' of drilling/milling. Ingredients are various metal powders, which allows for making different alloys in the same part – try doing that in a mold!


No disagreement. Yes there is some magic you can do with additive manufacturing that is just impossible with other techniques. I was referring to GE's remarks about additive manufacturing impacting all of their production. In some areas like cover plates, additive manufacturing makes casting much cheaper than machining sheet metal. If you made each cover plate with AM, it would cost more than using AM to produce moulds, or prototypes.
MikeBowler
1.4 / 5 (9) Nov 16, 2013
Can it print quarter coins?

why would you want a quarter of a coin?
Protoplasmix
1 / 5 (11) Nov 16, 2013
If you made each cover plate with AM, it would cost more than using AM to produce moulds, or prototypes.

Good point. Am guessing there are rules of thumb already for determining which route is preferable based on part geometry/complexity and production requirements. As others pointed out, additive has been around for a while, but as an industry it's still a fledgling one (at least here in the US), and so in a turn-key system I'd expect the software to chart it out for a range of options, including combinations of both routes.
I was referring to GE's remarks about additive manufacturing impacting all of their production

In the video highlighting the nozzles it was mentioned that by 2020 they expect to be producing over 100,000 parts for their 'LEAP' engine using additive. But, as with the nozzle, if 25% lighter and 5x more durable is any indication, it sounds like the impact will be even greater on performance than production. Good deal all around, I'd say.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (5) Nov 16, 2013
Due to nature of US and UK economies with quantitative easing, spewing $3 of debt for $1 of GDP, the role of innovator is discouraged. Labor is treated as just another deflationary commodity. The only winner in deflationary quantitative easing West is owners of capital. All wealth flows to them. Accordingly, the owners of capital will build Chinese factories to apply 3D printing and ensure it is outsourced as the rest of US manufacturing. The alternative is to eliminate 3rd party zionist banking. But Americans are addicted and will prefer living in apartheid West-Bank conditions rather than switching to a solid money like gold or bitcoin as India and China are now doing
holoman
1.3 / 5 (12) Nov 16, 2013
Its only taken 25 years after the inventor in Texas created it.

I guess it because it was the only way the technology could be RIPPED OFF !
NikFromNYC
1.3 / 5 (13) Nov 17, 2013
Programmed self-assembly of nano particles needs no slow ass machine, but it's a hundred years away.
antialias_physorg
2 / 5 (1) Nov 17, 2013
that so much trash is being collected in each & every house.
3-D Printing can only add to that bulk.

The amount of things you need is constant. Whether you get them from China and have to have them shipped accross the globe or manufacture them locally in your home is irrelevant (and arguably the latter is better from an ecological perspective. Especially if the resources for the printing process are made locally, too).

Now we can look ahead to the next step: 3D-DEconstruction. Taking an object apart into its constituent resources (think reverse 3D-printing) and reusing that for the next thing you want to make. That would really unclutter your home, as then you don't have to keep stuff in storage on the off chance that you'll need it once every few years.

Print your daily wardrobe...get rid of your entire store of clothes. It sounds SciFi - but not as much as one might think.
betterexists
1 / 5 (11) Nov 17, 2013
I read that Left - wagging dog tail means something;
And Right - wagging dog tail means something else.
How about 3-D Print both of them?
I am wondering who does research in those dumb fields & what is there so much to learn when funds are squandered thus!
3-D printing by the Industries is Certain to Evolve.
Then what are we going to 3-D print for ourselves...that is not readily available in the Market....except wasting Time & Money that could be used in rather more productive ways!
I do understand that Those doing Advanced research in the area do need to work in their garages too.
Protoplasmix
1 / 5 (11) Nov 17, 2013
Programmed self-assembly of nano particles needs no slow ass machine, but it's a hundred years away.

I think careful observation of plant and animal cells wrt how they assemble larger structures from the ground up may shorten that time estimate considerably.
Protoplasmix
1.3 / 5 (12) Nov 17, 2013
Print your daily wardrobe...get rid of your entire store of clothes. It sounds SciFi - but not as much as one might think.

On the mark as usual, AA :)
I'm looking forward to painting the living room wall with paint that self-assembles into an ultra-thin high-definition display that covers the whole wall.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Nov 17, 2013
Solid concepts... Pistol not shotgun... Work fine? Sure.
-You forgot to mention ammo which cannot be printed. And 'working fine' means extended reliability including dependable accuracy and consistent functionality. Feed ramp, barrel, firing pin, and chamber would fatigue and wear. Misfires and eventual destructive failure would ensue. Printing cannot produce case-hardened steel required for firearms.

I dunno - Internet shopping was supposed to make stores obsolete. I think people will still go to retail outlets even if what they buy there is printed. Buying printers, waiting for varied and exotic media to arrive, maintenance, etc. -a pain.

Perhaps kinkos should look into providing this service?
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Nov 17, 2013
Oh look - even cold fusion reactors will be printed.

"Rossi: Plans to 3D Print E-Cats [Updated]
November 15, 2013 • 27 Comments
Here's an interesting coincidence. After having posted about the 3D printed metal gun today, someone posted a link to the CNS story on the Journal of Nuclear Physics and asked Rossi's opinion about the chance of 3D printing E-Cats. Rossi responded:

"Italo R.:
You read out thoughts ...etc."
http://www.e-catw...-e-cats/

-I suppose you could just drop buffalo head nickels and deuterium into your printer and get out unlimited energy. But then it would not be quite free would it?
NOM
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 17, 2013
I have a RepRap 3D printer. I use it all the time to make useful things. But as they are in PLA plastic, things tend to have a limited life.
One thing I have printed recently is many of the parts for a newer model, larger 3D printer. This one will be able to print more than one material at a time, so can print in several colours or even different materials.
Zera
1 / 5 (12) Nov 17, 2013
I have an idea with regards to 3D printing:

So on your roof you have a sealed plastic tube, with a connection to water (both hot and cold), transclucent enough to allow for UV Radiation (with potential solar cell attached), air pressure regulation valves, various monitors inside the tube for pH, etc, etc.

Into this tube introduce a protien/bacteria that is edible (the hope is that we create one of super characteristics - basically perfect food source for the human body). Keeping in reserve the template/original factor for constant comparison to ensure the protien/bacteria doesn't evolve/adapt to be dangerous to the human body).

Have a spillgate/filtration process in which the usable quantity of mass is split off from the whole and piped directly to a fridge (cupboard-food storage factor). Before introducing it directly to a 3D printer, in that manner you can have any shape, texture, flavour injected into the protien.

Very hopeful I suppose, but not beyond the realm of possibility.
Mike_Massen
1 / 5 (10) Nov 17, 2013
Zera offered needed imaginative input with
"I have an idea with regards to 3D printing:"...
Indeed, we need goals, aspirations, stimulus etc. Bacteria certainly have their uses, some species in our gut (of which we have ~1.5Kg or so in total) produce many vitamins. I'd be looking also at fungi, especially those that could be convinced to produce meat like tasty vegetarian slices of good texture, shaped with 3D printing into anatomically appropriate patterns.

Water based vegetables & herbs have hardly been explored.

Hydroponically grown conventional vegetables do seem to be straightforward & in solar powered environments. I would be keen to see the species selected to be tolerant of high mineral nutrients as our typical western diet is generally deficient in so many minerals.

Bacteria though can live off almost anything & there are a huge number of non-pathogenic species, many of which can be food for fungi as well as 'seasoning' in their own right, a nice stimulus Zera, tah.

NOM
1 / 5 (1) Nov 17, 2013
Nothing to do with 3D printing though.
Zera
1.6 / 5 (13) Nov 17, 2013
NOM - would you prefer to drink a paste? or have a "printed burger"?
Mike_Massen
1.3 / 5 (12) Nov 17, 2013
NOM blundered with this comment
"Nothing to do with 3D printing though."
Very strange NOM, can you be honest to clarify, are you suffering a malady or incompetent or just plain unaware as you didn't even read in Zera's posting was offered this:-
"Before introducing it directly to a 3D printer, in that manner you can have any shape, texture, flavour injected into the protein."


Clearly 3D printing is involved (doh NOM), what is interesting and worthy of investigation is the means to agglomerate the various organic substances and perhaps with food technology modifiers such as humectants, desiccants, emulsifiers, colouring & supplement with starches, sugars, soluble fiber, extruded brans etc...

So, some discussion about 'print heads' keeping them free of pathogens as food products are involved etc ?

(shakes head at NOM)
Telekinetic
1.6 / 5 (13) Nov 17, 2013
"Feed ramp, barrel, firing pin, and chamber would fatigue and wear. Misfires and eventual destructive failure would ensue. Printing cannot produce case-hardened steel required for firearms."- G.of O.

Ja, so when the Third Reich rises again, we won't make the mistake of printing our Lugers!
You better hope 3D printers don't start churning out Nazi memorabilia, Ghost, the value of your own collection would collapse, wouldn't it?
zaxxon451
1 / 5 (1) Nov 18, 2013
Can it print quarter coins?

why would you want a quarter of a coin?


because you can put four of them together and have a whole coin! duh...
think of the profit$ if we could print quarter of a coin!
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Nov 18, 2013
or have a "printed burger"?

I could go for a printed burger. Or what do you think the current patties you buy at the store are? They are beef and pink slime (if you're lucky) ground into small strips and layered together to form the shape of a burger. That's just like printing.
If my printer had a 'beef paste' in one of its cartridges then there would be no difference to the current product at all.

Can it print quarter coins?
At current resolution: no (at least no so you wouldn't notice). And when they can printing a quarter will cost you more in terms of raw materials and power than the quarter is worth.

But at some point stuff like that will be tried - and we'll need to switch over very quickly to electronic cash.
betterexists
1 / 5 (10) Nov 18, 2013
Can it print quarter coins?

Since it is Illegal to do so...
Someone can pick up same Fake Coin (so many out there) , Duplicate it & ANNOUNCE It...If successful!
Protoplasmix
1 / 5 (10) Nov 18, 2013
If it is printed, when tis printed, it is best printed quickly.
Some folk long for the good old days. Not me. I long for the good new days when mining heavy metal mother lodes of astronomical proportions on the moon and on asteroids has turned money into cultural artifacts associated with less than fond memories of poverty, scarcity, slavery and such.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Nov 18, 2013
"Feed ramp, barrel, firing pin, and chamber would fatigue and wear. Misfires and eventual destructive failure would ensue. Printing cannot produce case-hardened steel required for firearms."- G.of O.

Ja, so when the Third Reich rises again, we won't make the mistake of printing our Lugers!
You better hope 3D printers don't start churning out Nazi memorabilia, Ghost, the value of your own collection would collapse, wouldn't it?
Hey you could print a little nikola tesla bobblehead for the dash of your VW. But beware it will have small parts which are a choking hazard. Better stick to your thumb.
NOM
1 / 5 (1) Nov 18, 2013
NOM - would you prefer to drink a paste? or have a "printed burger"?

I'd rather grow a tomato. 3D printed food is probably the least useful purpose for 3D printing.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Nov 20, 2013
3D printed food is probably the least useful purpose

Bakeries who are already making a buck printing 3D cakes would disagree.
NOM
not rated yet Nov 20, 2013
Agreed, but it's only scraping the surface of the potential of 3D printing.

My point was that Zero's post, that so impressed Mr Massen, was just random garbage and had very little to do with 3D printing.
Zera
1.5 / 5 (8) Nov 20, 2013
Good morning NOM,

1, It is Zera... short for Zero Alpha, the man in command...

Keeping with that:

2, "The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination" - A. Einstein

and

3, Your concept of what 3D printing is capable of is bound by the fact you consider it to be a printer, I'm trying to explain to you that a "printer" is simply a device for assembling basic blocks of any particular substance.

4, Those most fundamental blocks (Food, Water, Shelter, Education) of our continued health and well-being need to be consider through any advance in our technological prowess. Especially if we can create an increase in efficiency.

5, I appreciate devil's advocates, especially when they help create a more in depth idea, help create thought and energy - your posts contain nothing of that quality and as such you would be better served keeping your fingers off the keyboard.