3D printing is a process where a material, typically plastic, is printed in layers on top of one another to create a three dimensional replica of an item. Potentially, this technique could be used to print any item from incredible artwork to the parts that are required to build a 3D printer –it would be possible to print a replacement printer. It is just about possible to buy such a printer for your own home but is the technology good enough to get excited about and will it really make enough of a different to warrant buying one?
The greatest image, thus far, of three dimensional printing is that of being able to print your own home. There would be no need for bricks and mortar or even tools. You could download the instructions and have each part individual printed. You could follow the instructions, having printed off any tool you require, and then essentially complete the construction of your own home. Obviously, the instructions would have to be better than your average flat pack instruction booklet but the principle is there.
The problem, according to critics, is not so much the technology but imagination. What exactly would we print?
Currently, the market is filled with people that use the technology for making repairs. If you need an unusually shaped washer to fix the plumbing then you could print one. If you need a replacement hose for your vacuum and the company that originally manufactured the appliance has gone bust you wouldn’t need to worry – you could print your own.
Kids will also find great joy in bringing their own insane drawings to life. They could use a selection of designs that have already been created or they could let their minds run away with them while they created entire alien landscapes filled with hitherto unimagined spacecraft, aliens, and other items. One company describes the 3D printer as being the last toy a child will ever need to buy.
And then there’s the gun makers. “Click. Print. Gun” is a documentary that centres on CEO Cody Wilson as he shows how it is already possible to make the most important components of a gun. He opines that it will be possible to print full and fully operational guns by the end of the year. Of course, knowing how reliable home printers are and just how perfectly straight you have to get the paper, there’s no guarantee the printed gun would work.