3D printing is basically the same as normal (two-dimensional) printing, except that, instead of ink, you use various substances, like plastic, rubber, metal… The substance in question can be in the form of liquid, powder, or sheets. Fed into a 3D printer, it is layered and merged together to form the desired object. Depending on the object, the printing time can take several minutes, several hours, or several days.
The experts say that the new technology holds exceptional promises. It has a potential to revolutionise manufacturing: with 3D printing, we can create sophisticated products without the need for labour-intensive factories, and we can use recycled materials to boot.
Here are examples of several real-life 3D printing applications:
- South Africans are involved in supplying 3D-printed aircraft parts for an American manufacturer.
- A Dutch architect has designed a house to be built using an enormous 3D printer
- Two makers, one from U.S.A. and another from South Africa, have teamed up online to build a robotic hand for a five-year-old South African boy who was born without fingers on his right hand.
- A Belgian company has made an entire lower jaw using a 3D printing technique. Surgeons implanted it in an elderly woman.
- Edinburgh scientists have used 3D printer to produce a miniscule cluster of stem cells, the technology that could one day lead to printing of artificial human organs, doing away with the need for organ donors.
But let’s stick to the home use for 3D printing. Recently, manufactures have come up with entry-level 3D printers with a price tag of below R5000. Of course, there are the costs of the “ink” and the software to take into account, but that’s not likely to deter DIY enthusiasts. After all, who could resist it! Just imagine, you design something astounding in three dimensions on your computer, press the “print” button – and voila, you’ve got a doll house plastic chair, a coat hook, an iPhone holder, a watch band, a rare part for your classic car, an electric guitar, a 3D model of your own head…
With a perspective like that, it makes sense to keep an eye on the bidorbuy printers section and be the first to spot a 3D printer there!