If you haven’t looked into 3D printing yet, maybe you should. 3D printing started in the mid-80’s but it is now emerging as a technology that may well change the way many products are created. Oxford University has demonstrated that a 3D printer can make synthetic tissue, Oxford Performance Materials out of Connecticut has “printed” a skull implant, and Cornell University has fabricated an ear using this technology. A Dutch architect, Janjapp Ruijssenaars, plans to build a house using 3D printing.
3D printing has triggered the imagination of many researchers and developers. Combine 3D printing with another technology such as nanotechnology and the possibilities increase geometrically. Imagine a dentist making a bridge or implant while you wait and there is no need to schedule another appointment. Need a custom part – print it out.
This technology takes the concept of printing and applies it to objects so that an item is fabricated by assembling it at thicknesses as thins as sixteen microns. The process involves creating an object design in CAD or animation software. Then using a file format known as STL (for “Standard Tessellation Language” or “stereolithography), the 3D object is sliced up enabling the printer to handle the information.
The “ink” is an important factor each process requires a material best suited for the product’s creation. Whoever comes up with the best material for a process is likely to become the winner in that market.
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