Last week I went to a street fair in Boston. It was an interesting event to say the least, it was a celebration of local inventors and craftspeople. We made trans-music with a home built computerized digital orchestra, rode on electric motorbikes, played with robots and a large wooden catapult. Have a look at some of the photos here.
The robot collection was extraordinary, but one object really made me think. Someone had built there own 3D printer and was making objects as we watched.
3D printing has come up on this site before, but the fact that somebody could build one themselves at home had escaped me. And these types of printers have recently been in the news here in the USA for a very serious reason, somebody has claimed that they could produce a gun using only 3d printing.
Cody Wilson, 3D weapon advocate
Defense Distributed, a group of gun advocates, recently posted a YouTube video trying to raise money to make a printable gun. The concept is to use fast-improving 3D printer technology to create gun parts that could be assembled into a fully-workable firearm.
“As the printing press revolutionized literacy, 3D printing is in its moment,” Cody Wilson, 24, founder of Defense Distributed, said in the video clip.
Three-dimensional printers have been used industrially for years to produce plastic or metal objects, but as the prices for entry level machines have fallen as low as $500, the printers have become more prevalent among hobbyists and educational institutions.
Users can create or download a data file, then simply click “Print” and the machines will create the three-dimensional prototype.
Now this organization would like to distribute a data file for a workable gun, something that may well not even be illegal over here, the law remains fuzzy in the face of such technology.
Fortunately the printer company have taken their machine back from Mr. Wilson as it is illegal to manufacture guns without a license, but he has raised over $20 000 for his project so far so may well soon be able to buy another.
Another hobbyist has actually produced some parts for a gun, assembled it and fired it more than 200 times so this is certainly not science fiction. Have a look at this article in Gizmag.
Is this just a crazy idea? Or could it undermine any gun controls put in place and put weapons into everybody’s hands? The second is Mr. Wilson’s goal unfortunately.
This kind of unforeseen use for an otherwise interesting new technology reminds me of why I keep on battling for ethics and responsibility in innovation through my work.
What an achievement, this is my (Christopher Roberts’s) 100th post on Technology Bloggers!
Thank you everyone for your support, I love writing here, and that is because of the fantastic community we have created 🙂
3D printers have been around for around 20 years now, however it is only recently that they have really started to show their true potential, both in industrial and now even domestic settings.
Thanks to the recent advancements in 3D printing, CAD designs can be constructed into physical prototypes (and in some cases now even final products) by 3D printers. 3D printers have the potential to revolutionise the way we live our lives, due the variety of possibilities they unlock. 3D printing could revolutionise architecture, product design, industry, education, and so much more!
What exactly is 3D printing?
Most people have access to a normal printer, be it black and white or colour, ink jet or laser. Those sorts of printers however, only work in 2 dimensions, they can print content in the dimension that is left to right, and the dimension that is forward to back. 3D printing adds in another dimension, up and down. Therefore 3D printing means that you can print in height, length and breadth.
Why is 3D printing important?
Some critics have speculated that 3D printing will be as big, if not a bigger revolution to industry, and the way we live our lives, than the internet was. The internet has opened up so many opportunities, but it is believed that 3D printing, could possibly open up even more!
For architects, it will mean that within minutes, they will be able to print on screen prototypes of buildings, so they have a tangible product to show the customer, in virtually no time at all!
For retail, 3D printing could mean that shops hold no stock, and products (less complex ones at first, but branching out in the future) could be made to order, on site! No longer would shops be out of stock, so long as they have material to print on, they can make new products, there and then.
For healthcare, the new printing capabilities will mean that body part replacements can be accurately measured, designed, and then printed. Yeah, printed bones! Just last month, it was publicised that the first 3D printed jaw had transplanted onto the face of a woman from the Netherlands. The jaw was matched to the shape of the patient’s original jaw, using CAD modelling, and then layers of titanium powder were melted into shape by the powerful lasers that make up the 3D printer.
How do 3D printers work?
Different 3D printers work in different ways. Some work by building the object slowly, layer upon layer in an upwards direction, whilst others work by cutting down into a material. The titanium jaw example from above was built by building upwards creating layers upon layers of material, from titanium powder fused together by laser.
What materials can be ‘printed’ on?
Currently you can ‘print’ on plastics, metals, ceramics, glass, and even certain malleable foods (such as sugars and chocolate). In the future that selection of materials is likely to be expanded, and some even believe that we could grow human bone, and then 3D print replacements – that is still a way off at the moment though!
Could you get a 3D printer?
Many firms are looking to capitalise on the decreasing cost of 3D printers, so much so that some companies are now offering (simpler) domestic versions for home use!
In an interview with the BBC, MakerBot’s chief executive Bre Pettis, claimed that the printer is “a machine that makes you anything you need” which is “handy in an apocalypse or just handy for making shower curtain rings and bathtub plugs.”
Mr Pettis also said he hoped to get his printers “into the hands of the next generation because kids these days are going to have to learn digital design so they can solve the problems of tomorrow”.
Another company, (called 3D systems) is offering its ‘Cube’ 3D printers at a similar price to Makerbot, marketing it as a tool to express your creativity. The company is currently working on an app that will allow users to use the Microsoft’s Kinect motion sensor to create objects, simply by moving their hands through the air!
Some of 3D Systems ‘Cube’ printers, prining 3D objects
3D printing is bringing to the global market a fast and increasingly affordable way of turning ideas into reality. No longer will the joys of flexible design be limited to those with CAD jobs and the luxury of a prototype department. There is now a big incentive for people to learn CAD techniques and how to use CAD software. Many countries are now investing in 3D printing technologies, as they can see the potential; IT jobs in the UK and abroad are likely to see big benefits from this.
3D printing is real, and it is here.
So, what do you think about 3D printing, will it revolutionise the way we live our lives – even as much as the internet did? Or do you think that it is a waste of resources, and that it will never really be cost effective enough to be used on a mass scale?
Technology is always changing and advancing the way we live our lives, unless you are a luddite and live in an Amish community that is! Some people oppose technological change, and I respect them for that, but personally I embrace it – techie all the way!
Technology is likely to improve the way we do business significantly in the near future, but how? In this article I am going to write about some of the latest and greatest technology which is going to revolutionise the way we work!
Portable Laser Keyboards
Okay, so you may be thinking that we already have keyboards that are pretty portable, you can get role up ones that you can take almost anywhere. The problem with these is of course, they do take up space, and often they cannot connect to your smartphone or tablet.
The future solution to this problem is already here: The Magic Cube. The Magic Cube is a super portable wireless laser keyboard, which has been developed by a company called Celluon. It is basically a little box which can project a laser keyboard onto any flat surfaces, and then works out what you are typing by where your fingers break the lasers.
The Magic Cube – a wireless laser keyboard
This is no ordinary keyboard though, it can connect via Bluetooth to most smartphones, laptops, tablets and desktops, so wherever you are, no matter what your device, if you have your Magic Cube, you have a keyboard!
Hand Motion Technology
In the very near future, we will be able to control screens using our hands, and not by touching the screen (that technology already exists) but by simply waving a hand in the air.
The 2002 film Minority Report featured futuristic hand motion technology where detectives could push images off to the side and bring up more content just by waving their hands in the air. This was in the movie, because the film makers heard that the technology was being developed.
In the future we are likely to see much better integration of all technologies. Mainly thanks to the likes of cloud computing and improvements in wireless technology, it should become easier and easier to transfer files from device to to device.
Smartphones and tablets have and are still revolutionising the way we do business. Smartphones and tablets have significantly improved the way we do business and communicate, but it is the apps that you can download onto them that are likely to significantly change the way we do business in the future.
We already have apps that can scan and store your business cards, store details on your asset and save your important documents, but in the future you can expect many more effective, impressive apps. Some examples of apps which we may see developed in the future (or that are being developed now) are the likes of more powerful, real time translators, high performance graphic design apps, apps which make paying, transferring and receiving money much easier, human quality text to speech apps, and many more.
A US based company called Anybots have created a very cool little robot called QB, which uses the latest in wireless technology to create a portable webcam, so when conference calling, you almost feel as though you are in the room (thanks to your movable position) with your colleagues.
The head of one of Anybots wirelessly controlled QB robots – notice the webcam eyes and screen inbuilt into the head
The robots have freedom of movement, so they can go anywhere in the office. On the head section of the QB, there is a webcam, so that you can see what the robot sees, and a screen, so you can be seen by those in the office.
QB means that you can be anywhere in the world, and yet still check up on those in the office, meaning that working out of the office is so much easier than ever before! QB could also help to significantly reduce the costs to businesses of travel, as fewer employees will need to be on the move.
3D printing is a new technology, which some critics say will be as big a revolution as the internet! 3D printing will allow firms to print products to order in store, bringing huge savings to firms in terms of transportation. Some predict that by the end of the decade, 3D printers will be a common household object, where we can print things, in 3D out of a whole range of different materials. I plan to write an article in the near future about 3D printing, so stay tuned!