Originally conceived in the early 1980s as a fast and more affordable way to create prototypes for product development, the first 3D commercial printing system was introduced in 1987. Since then, from industrial machinery to houses and bionic body parts,3D Printing has come a long way, baby.
3D Printing History
The timeline of this technology is quite a story in itself – the fact that it took from 1980 to 2012 to begin realising its full potential is a shame. Sadly, the patent application for Rapid Prototyping in 1980 was not fully completed by Japan’s Dr. Kodama, and what we now know as 3D printing was instead attributed to Charles Hull, who secured a proper patent for his Stereolithography Apparatus (SLA) technology in 1983. Definitely a perfect example of how important it is to legally lock down your brand assets.
How Does it Work?
Think of how printing a page of text over a few thousand times would build multiple layers – creating an eventual solid 3D model of each letter. The process creates a 3D object from many tiny slices. An interesting take on 3D Printing for Dummies, Author Andrew Walker says, “If something is broken or no longer sold, you can just print it.” Though 3D mass production printing can’t currently match the smooth finishes or low factory prices, the future will fix this in short order.
3D printing is making a difference for everything from domestic pets to wild creatures, great and small. And, help is coming in a wholly unexpected form thanks to 3D technology – from encouraging a disabled kitten to learn to walk, to bio startup Pembient’s fabrication of wildlife products such as rhino horn and elephant ivory (a great step in stopping the killing of these endangered animals). Because every living thing that roams the planet matters in the larger scheme of its existence, the earth’s inhabitants all contribute and deserve protection.
World Saving Advance Project (WASP) has developed a 40 foot tall 3D prototype – where having a roof over your head is a luxury few can enjoy. If you’ve ever seen a potter wasp nest (which could well have been the inspiration for this Italian engineering company’s concept), they deposit layers of mud until a pot shape is formed. The company’s approach is “Doing what you want using what you have, sharing knowledge and experiences.”
The Body Human
The Borough of Darford, Kent, England has a lengthy history of industrial, cultural and religious significance. And now, there’s one more thing this quaint town is famous for – it’s home to a little girl who was the UK’s first recipient of a 3D printed bionic hand.
Born without fingers on her right arm, Isabella Rudd (now 8 years old) rides a bike and handles objects like a pro – with the blessing of a 3d printed prosthetic at a cost of only £50. Giving a helping hand to upper limb differences, non-profit E-Nable conceptualized the hand, and it was printed by Professor Frankie Flood, an engineer at the University of Wisconsin.
3D printing has now entered into the prescription drugs industry, and Aprecia Pharmaceuticals has used it to create its trademark ZipDose technology (pills designed with a unique porous structure that dissolve faster when contact is made with liquids). The advantage here is to make it easier to swallow; especially helpful with large dose pills and for kids resisting taking their medications. Aprecia’s new drug (levetiracetam) controls epileptic seizures and has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Next Level Recycling
Celebrities have often lent their names to causes and Black Eyed Peas member, Will.i.am, is no exception to that rule. In fact, his company Ekocycle is the precursor of many sustainable products. After leaving the stage in 2007 and observing all the plastic bottles and waste left behind by the concert-goers, Will.i.am took a random thought all the way to an impactful environmental company. He went from approaching Coca Cola with his ideas, to creating his own brand’s Ekocycle Cube which turns a concept into a reality in just a few hours.
UK 3D Printing Store
This video demonstrates several 3D printers in action, at IMakr you can buy the machines, get training and ‘join the personal manufacturing revolution!’