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HindustanTimes Wed,03 Sep 2014

Science

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3D Printing: what we are dealing with
Durga M Sengupta, Hindustantimes.com
New Delhi, May 23, 2013
First Published: 20:14 IST(23/5/2013)
Last Updated: 14:28 IST(24/5/2013)
Cube is a color 3D printer from Cubify--a division of 3D Systems--that prints using ABS plastic at 25 thousandths-of-an-inch layers--which is superior to the MakerBot's precision records.

Imagine a device that can create a gun for $25. Now imagine being able to fire eight shots from this novel gun. Wait, don’t stop there. What if you could create it? The alarming truth is you can.

With the new wave of 3D printing, a technological revolution set to put the wheels of change in rapid motion printing functional guns has become a reality.

Gun Printing
Defense Distributed, the company that created the first 3D gun questionably called the “Liberator” and released the blueprint online ‘inspired’ the creation of another gun by a man who identifies himself as “Joe”. This gun, called the “Lulz Liberator” is a far more powerful machine and dangerously costs a measly $25 to create.

Although the cost of the printer is high, it is not impossible. Staples has released the cheapest 3D printer so far at $1299.99 a printer. However, prices are expected to fall with time. Read the story on the first 3D printing gun controversy by Forbes here.

Life-saving device
While some are constantly seeking ways to channel any sort of new technology into creating such dangerous apparatuses, others are utilising the very same to save lives. In a groundbreaking operation that employed the use of a 3D printed device, a six-week-old infant closely escaped death.

Kaiba was born with a rare condition called tracheobronchomalacia where the main arteries that led to his heart and lungs were misplaced, squeezing his windpipe for air. The infant survived due to an unusual surgery wherein a 3D printed vacuum cleaner-like device was implanted into his chest to clear the airway and help him breathe. As Jeremey Laurance noted in The Independent, Kaiba has been taken off the ventilator and “has not had trouble breathing since.”

Bionic ear
It can also be used to help the disabled, and how! According to a story by Huffington Post, a bunch of crazy scientists at Princeton University (if we may call them so) invented a 3D printed hearing-device that can not only enable someone to hear better, but to hear better than the normal human beings. This device, that resembles a normal ear in colour and make, can even catch radio signals. 

Printed food, anyone?
However, despite the debates 3D printing isn’t merely an object of social scorn or appraisal. It is also an invention that gives birth to new inventions! NASA, for instance, has gone a step further and ordered for customised pizzas and some pie.

 “NASA has awarded a US$125,000 grant to Systems & Materials Research to develop 3D printed pies,” reads an article by Jason Bittel. The logic is that printed food without moisture will survive a good 30 years, where normal food can’t survive more than a day. Now that’s an invention!

Routine Stuff
A printer at home that recreates almost anything you want into plastic remodels can be of good use in many ways. Some mundane ideas are printed car keys so that you needn’t go to your cheeky locksmith every time you lose that extra key, or water-proof lingerie without too many hooks modeled to fit your body perfectly. These are some of the innovative uses for which a 3D printer has already been put to use for.

So all in all, this technology like any other can be used for both positive changes and otherwise. But one question nobody seems to be asking is where does all the plastic go? Have we forgotten the environment in the childlike excitement that surrounds this mother of all inventions?

The possibilities are endless. But the implications cannot be ignored.


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