Corporations and Labs Make Three-Dimensional Printing a Reality
When you talk about “3D printing” with people who don't know what it is, they usually respond with something along the lines of “Oh…you mean like printing holograms or 3D images? Yeah, um, great.”
Then you explain, and after a moment a light goes on in their eyes.
“Whoa,” they say solemnly.
3D printing is not, in fact, printing 3D pictures, but actually printing objects. Things. Stuff you use each day, like a picture frame or a spoon—or something far more complex. The technology (often called “additive manufacturing”) has actually been around for quite some time but only recently has its momentum picked up to the point that it’s catching on (read: hitting some derivative of Moore’s Law at the elbow of the curve), first among the geeks and now, finally, garnering very real mainstream attention. Though most 3D printers are industrial grade, like mainframe computers and printers were thirty years ago, more and more smaller, personal-sized prototypes are popping up. The idea of being able to “print” a new plate after your kid accidentally smashes one on the floor doesn’t seem like it’s from a sci-fi movie or novel anymore.
Let’s look at some of the, for lack of a better word, things you can print today.