The future in 3D printing: New innovations harness older technology
Remember when the Jetsons wanted to eat? All they had to do was select a menu, push a few buttons on the machine and their meals would magically appear.
Well, the future is here through the magic of 3D printing. Producing piping hot pizza, fish and chips, and even heart-shaped chocolates is one of the more novel approaches to a technology that has been taking the world by storm over the past few years. Today 3D printers assist not only the culinary-challenged but also provide more practical uses for medicine, the arts and everyday business. With the right software and printer, it is now possible to send an image through a computer and create anything from a hammer, a gun, an earring, or a precision tool for airplane maintenance or even delicate life-saving surgery.
Even NASA has been experimenting with 3D printing — not to create Space Age food — but to provide members of the International Space Station with the ability to create their own tools. In a test last December, an astronaut created a ratchet wrench from a computer image transmitted from NASA. The experiment demonstrated that a mission could continue even if a critical tool broke or was missing. After all, it would have been rather costly and time-consuming to return to Earth for the tool.
Today, 3D printing affords artists the opportunity to envision what Venus de Milo might look like with arms and scientists the ability to actually customize mechanical arms for amputees and people with birth defects. Doctors can now hold a life-size model of an individual patient’s heart in their hands so they can clearly see where they have to operate. Even a Boeing 737-800 can be scanned in 3D so that a local business in Doral can retrofit passenger jets into cargo carriers.