Monday, February 11, 2013

3D Printing

I have what may be, to those who write articles about 3D printers, a stupid question.  Printers - normal ones - use paper.  They print images of things.  If you print something in 3D, aren't you just printing a 3D image of something?

The articles I read make it sound like someone could buy a 3D printer and start "printing" their own guns or phones or chairs.

What do you put in the printer?  Wood chips for the chair?  A gooey mix of liquid plastic, memory chips and color for the phone?

Something is missing in these stories.  I cannot be convinced that, if I buy a 3D printer, I'll be able to create my own knockoff designer purses.

Am I crazy?  Perhaps the printer just prints a plan?  Which, for designer purses, would mean you have to buy leather and make a purse just like anyone would make an old fashioned dress - from a pattern.  Why would you need an expensive 3D printer for that?

This kind of thing annoys me.  Somewhere between the sentence about famous knock-offs (like copies of expensive watches, purses, etc.) and the sentence that states that 3D printers are a threat to the business of name brands, there should be some sort of explanation.

Like - what the $%#^%#@# is a 3D printer and what do you put in it to make it print.

1 comment:

gottingen said...

Hi, 3D printers produce a real solid object, but as you suspect there is a catch in that you can only print a limited number of materials, and only certain very special printers allow you to mix multi materials in one same print; furthermore the materials available often do not correspond to what you would want. So, you guessed right, it's a big limitation of 3D printing. However, you can print any SHAPE you want. So, if you have a beautiful wood chair, you can print it in 3D, but it will be made of plastic, not wood, because no printer exists as far as I know that prints wood. In fact, no printer exists that prints fibrous materials at all; so, no fiberglass, no wood, you get the drift.High quality metals, suprisingly, CAN be 3D printed, so you can make for example a medical prosthesis out of aeronautical titanium with a 3D printer. In that case, what goes in the printer is a fine titanium powder, which gets melted in the printer to produce the shape.