For the longest amount of time, 3D printing has been a somewhat useless thing to have. Needing expensive parts, expensive initial set up, expensive materials, all so that you could print a small plastic trinket that means nothing to anyone.
Thanks to some rather smart people, 3D printing is becoming more useful, economically viable, and environmentally friendly. First off, 3D modelling is taking off alongside 3D printing, as the requirement to design something new is often not as much of a necessity as just replicating something. 3D scanners can model items in all its dimensions, and get it ready for the eventual printing, reducing designing time, and eliminating a lot of human error. 3D printing has also gotten smarter, from recycling printed objects to using alternative sources of material, they are paving the way forward for corporate use.
Two of the most exciting ventures, are the guys from “Made in Space” and “Mcor“ who are both leaders in their respective fields. Made in Space are the guys that developed the 3D printer that has just recently been sent up to the international space station, the very first of its kind. What it means for humanity, and the space race we are currently in though is quite a phenomenal leap forward.
It will be the first time anything has ever been created in space, and the possibilities are largely beneficial to the astronauts who have limited access to regular things. On earth, if you need a tool you make it, in space, you can’t just pop out to a hardware store, however, with 3D printing, it becomes the hardware store. Astronauts can also print parts that they need, as well as re-use the plastic, to make new exciting tools for them to do their work. It seems that everything becomes just a little bit cooler when it’s in space.
Mcor on the other hand, have developed a 3D printer that uses normal paper as the material for printing, and will be able to use all those old documents you printed and filed for no apparent reason. It uses a water based adhesive which turn the paper in to the building material, which is phenomenal in itself. There is also a colour version, which will mix colours with the material before it’s fed to the printer, giving you a very flexible printing system, which can replicate shape and colour. The printouts don’t carry all the characteristics of paper though, it’s strong, really strong, and in a demo a 3D printed paper hammer was used to drive a nail into wood.
It’s all very exciting, as the second wave of products generally is. Let’s see what this all holds in store for us in the near future.