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3D printing:

This tiny forest is where all the action is!
3D printing sounds very interesting. It's a technology that allows one to create physical 3D objects, using a "3D printer" and materials, similar to how a regular printer uses ink and paper to print a picture or text. Of course it's limited to the laws of physics - you can't create a statue of someone juggling without having what the person is juggling fall to the ground immediately upon being sculpted/printed.

But it's said to be taking off in the past few years. The movie Coraline used a 3d printer to create statues of its characters in multiple facial expressions and poses, and its animation was made using those. So there's practical applications for it. There are also companies that charge you to create your own figures, sometimes using 3D graphics files you submit. Which is amazing. You could conceivably create your own action figures.

Anyway, I think this is really interesting. Considering I've commissioned artists on deviantART on occasion to draw pictures/paintings for me (I have some paintings commissioned for me hanging in my room), imagine being able to commission or design a figurine of, say, a character you created, or your family or friends, or something. This could be something really awesome.
 2 CDRW, Tue, 17th Jan '12 1:53:13 PM Relationship Status: Mu
I may be able to commission various out-of-stock otaku merchandise I've been craving! tongue

I'm wondering what this is going to do to companies like LEGO and Games Workshop, whose products can now be pirated.
 4 Troll Post, Tue, 17th Jan '12 2:00:11 PM from troll post crusher

This post has been thumped with the mod stick. This means knock it off.

 5 Catfish 42, Tue, 17th Jan '12 2:03:07 PM from world´s favourite country. Relationship Status: I'm just high on the world
Bloody Fossil
[up][up]Only if you've got a decent digital 3D model of them. Admittedly, that is rather easy for, say, LEGO, but the type and quality of the material used comes into play here if you want to get a good match for the real deal. And speaking of LEGO, there's various clone brans in different areas of legality operating already, 3D printing won't make a huge difference on that.

It's a pretty interesting technology though, even if I've got no idea what I'd want printed.

I am a traveller of both time and space
To be where I have been
It's going to be as important to civilization as the invention of the assembly line. 3d printing effectively eliminates the law of scale on personalized objects - its a HUGE change to our current economic system.

Also, it makes it possible to build materials that were previously impossible to manufacture. For instance, they are now using 3d printers to make metal hip replacements that have all of the mesh structure of natural bone, so that your bone marrow and arteries can grow right up into the replacement like natural bone.

Mesh structures are also incredibly strong but lightweight, and will eventually allow us to build enormous structures, like space elevators and arcologies. And 3d printing makes it possible to mass produce such materials.

And finally, they are working out ways to 3d print replacement organs using your bodies own cells grown in culture. In other words, as your body breaks down, you can make yourself a new one - effectively immortality.

 
3D printers are really cool. I've always wanted to get my hands on one to play around...you can even use them to make parts of things that require delicate assembly as a whole, right? Like...clocks, I guess, although parts of those you'd need to have anyway, like the quartz.
"You fail to grasp the basic principles of mad science. Common sense would be cheating." - Narbonic
[up]Exactly, which is why the technique is so powerful. You can even use it to make freestanding parts, like ball bearings:

 
That's...I have no words.

What are the limits? What materials can be printed? How much does one of these things cost?
Shapeways

Have a look around that site. They provide a commercial 3D printing service. If anything, you can get an idea about the possibilities.

edited 17th Jan '12 3:33:05 PM by GreatLich

 11 storyyeller, Tue, 17th Jan '12 3:34:28 PM from Appleloosa Relationship Status: RelationshipOutOfBoundsException: 1
More like giant cherries
I believe the Rep Rap project has managed to make 3d printers for only a couple hundred dollars.

The main limitation is the materials used, since it has to be something that can be created from a powder.
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 12 Rocket Dude, Tue, 17th Jan '12 5:52:03 PM from AZ, United States
This hat doesn't fit!
I think I mentioned this in an IRC channel yesterday: you could, with the right software, turn a structure made in Minecraft into a physical model with a 3D printer.
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 13 feotakahari, Tue, 17th Jan '12 6:01:44 PM from Looking out at the city
Fuzzy Orange Doomsayer
I remember a Cory Doctorow story about this. At the time, I dismissed it as implausible in the near future.

Edit: Found it.

edited 17th Jan '12 6:03:24 PM by feotakahari

That's Feo . . . He's a disgusting, mysoginistic, paedophilic asshat who moonlights as a shitty writer—Something Awful
 14 Deboss, Tue, 17th Jan '12 6:57:32 PM from Awesomeville Texas
I see the Awesomeness.
Limits will likely be cost of mass production. Much like CNC type machines, this is essentially a way to automate individual production. So things that are particularly easy to make with a process such as stamping will still be much cheaper on a per unit basis. The main application for things like this is on small orders or things that require relatively high precision but have problems with simple CNC devices.

Also...
That is implausible for the near future. It's the big elephant in the room regarding projects like the ''RepRap'': One can't print electronics (yet). So no printers that print themselves, no self-replicating machines. Not until they figure out how to print the electronics...

[up]Yet you still get stories like that... Look at the picture in that link, see the white plastic parts? Those are what the machine can make: a few structural parts, nothing more... The rest has to be bought or otherwise fabricated.

[down] That is absolutely amazing!

edited 17th Jan '12 7:33:12 PM by GreatLich

 16 johnnyfog, Tue, 17th Jan '12 7:24:17 PM from NYC Relationship Status: They can't hide forever. We've got satellites.
Mornin'.
Forget assembly lines. If I had this gadget, I could take over the world.

(Every single piece was 3-d printed.)

edited 17th Jan '12 7:26:12 PM by johnnyfog

What I lacks in brains I make for in…um…I make up for in…in…um…gummy bears. Yeah, that's the ticket.
 17 Deboss, Tue, 17th Jan '12 7:36:40 PM from Awesomeville Texas
I see the Awesomeness.
Well, I believe their goal was to make one machine that could do it. Instead of a garage full of different ones that could do it. I think that's much more likely to happen first.
 18 Catfish 42, Wed, 18th Jan '12 5:23:05 AM from world´s favourite country. Relationship Status: I'm just high on the world
Bloody Fossil
you could, with the right software, turn a structure made in Minecraft into a physical model with a 3D printer.

That Shapeways site linked up there links to another one where you can order a Minecraft character skin as a 6 or 12 cm figure. So far so good.

edited 18th Jan '12 5:25:55 AM by Catfish42

I am a traveller of both time and space
To be where I have been
Uncle George
I talked with my mom about this months back, and the company she works for has one of these in another facility, mostly for making prototype parts and such. This is really damn neat.

The possibilites are still a bit limited — limited materials for use, slow process, the physical limitation of (yet) not being to able to create closed items with nothing inside them. Small things, but this is really pushing the envelope on what we can create, and how.

And yes, item piracy might be a new issue to deal with, but that's really a question of whether the companies want to embrace the new technology or not. If toy companies, e.g. made designs for sale for home printing, they could revolutionize their business.

[ed.] holy crap, they can work glass and metal now? I thought it was just custom polymer. If you can work in several metarials in one project, you could print electronics. This is HUGE.

edited 18th Jan '12 5:37:11 AM by JethroQWalrustitty

This love so bold goes undeclared/a joy unseen, a world unknown/a love that dare not speak its name/hidden treasure, precious stone
Inspiring and a very simple visual explanation of selective sintering.

edited 18th Jan '12 8:41:10 AM by GreatLich

See ALL the stars!
Not until they figure out how to print the electronics...
Conductive ink is being researched ATM. They've got pretty far with it, from what I remember.
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 22 Mr AHR, Wed, 18th Jan '12 10:02:05 AM from ಠ_ಠ Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
Holy crap this is awesome. Do they last? I mean, you'd think they wouldn't be that durable.
[up][up] I would see what I could dig up about that particular aspect, but "blackout day" is really kicking my ass here...

[up][up]Yes. The laser in powder-based 3-d printing is essentially like a welding arc Sorry forgot that isn't how they work these days - its actually squirting molten plastic, or in the case of metal powders, adhesive, only it goes microthin layer by layer. It's not like the item produced is going to crumble to dust the minute you pick it up - its a solid object. And like I pointed out earlier, the materials that you use are getting to be very diverse. Not only can you 3d print metal and plastic objects, but they are working on wood and LIVING CELLS for copying organs instead of having to wait on a transplant (next year hospitals in Germany are going to start printing out blood vessels for triple bypass surgery, instead of grafting one from your leg, and another team in Boston claims that they will be able to print replacement teeth by 2013). In theory, you could print just about anything, including FOOD.

Here's a video of a metal item being made by 3-d printing:

edited 18th Jan '12 1:28:50 PM by MyGodItsFullofStars

 
 25 joeyjojo, Wed, 18th Jan '12 5:25:51 PM from South Sydney: go the bunnies! Relationship Status: Drift compatible
Happy Oktoberfest!
I can't wait to people start printing Warhammer models on it.

Your reign of greed will come to an end Games Workshop!
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Total posts: 434
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