3D printing technology is advancing rapidly. Find out what unusual items are able to be 3D printed right now – you’d be amazed…
It’s been around since the 1970s but it’s only in recent years that 3D printing technology has pushed the boundaries of what can be created out of plastic, metal, ceramics and all sorts of other mixed materials.
3D printers work by methodically building up layer upon thin layer of material based on a 3D design. Smaller scale 3D printers use plastic materials while more industrial ones print designs using materials such as concrete.
It’s remarkable what can now be made using 3D printers and how quickly this tech is progressing. In a decade or 2 people’s everyday lives could be transformed by 3D printers as more powerful printers become more easily available. Here’s a selection of what’s available right now…
Houses and flats
Believe it or not there are already several houses in the UK built using 3D printing technology. Before you imagine a printer the size of a block of flats spewing out a 2 bedroom house let us explain.
The 3D printed homes which currently exist are designed in 3D on a computer. Then components made from regular building materials such as wood and steel are precision-cut on the building site by a computer-operated blade. Each component precisely slots together, almost jigsaw-like, to form a house such as those made by Facit homes.
While entire houses have been built from concrete using 3D printers they aren’t as strong as houses made of different materials. So far, 3D printers which actually print building materials work best when building up the frame of a house. Yet construction companies are constantly breaking new ground with 3D printing. A 5-floor block of flats mainly constructed in 3D has been built in China for instance which uses a mixture of recycled materials such as glass combined with a special quick-drying cement.
When you jet off on holiday in the near future parts of your aeroplane could be 3D printed. And if you’re a nervous flyer fear not, as there’s less to be worried about. The 3D printing of plane parts will mean better performing engines, according to GE Aviation which makes commercial and military aircraft engines for aeroplanes around the world.
GE aviation is now mass producing 3D-printed fuel nozzles for its LEAP jet engines which are used in commercial aircraft. A 3D printed plane fuel nozzle is 5-times more durable than a component manufactured in the normal way, according to a GE Global Research spokesperson.
While RAF tornado fighter jets containing 3D-printed metal components built by BAE Systems have carried out test flights. So if you think 3D printing isn’t for you, you could be flying in a plane using it without even knowing.
Solar-powered electric scooter
There could soon be a new scooter in town. And yes, you guessed it, it’s partly made using 3D printed materials. The 3 wheeled prototype E-floater scooter has a few cool things going for it, namely its electric motor is solar-powered.
It’s also super lightweight thanks to the mix of soft and hard materials made from different 3D printing technologies. So soft components such as its wheels and front lights were made with one type of 3D printer, while tougher parts were made on a different 3D printer using stronger materials not affected by UV light.
3D printing is now being used by start-up companies to move more quickly from original concept to the design and build stage, which is what happened here with the E-floater from Floatility.
Robotic road worker
You could soon be saying goodbye to noisy road workers shouting about their breakfasts over their drilling. While 3D printing can’t make drilling noise stop, it can be used by a prototype robot called Addibot to fill in pot holes.
Invented by a Harvard graduate, Addibot has a selection of 3D printing nozzles to print different mixtures of materials that might be needed on road surfaces. Addibot can steer itself or be driven by remote-control. See how Addibot works.
Your face portrait… in chocolate
Ever had a family portrait which was so adorable you just wanted to eat it up? Well now you can, in chocolate. There are 3D printers available which let you create your own chocolate designs or face portraits such as the 3D chocolate printer from Choc Edge. So if you decide to immortalize your pet in a chocolate 3D print out and it doesn’t quite work out, you've got the excuse to eat it and try again.
While American chocolate giant Hershey can create complex 3D chocolate-built designs and delicately laced shapes for you to admire or devour as you see fit, using their CocoJet 3D printer.
Check out our current range of 3D printers.
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