When I first heard about 3D printing, I assumed it was some sort of gimmick – an expensive gadget that people could use to “print” their own hokey plastic figurines. In reality though, this is far from the truth and while expensive, these devices have the capability to create some very cool and also practical objects. A 3D printer is a machine that prints multi-layer objects from digital models created with computer aided design (CAD) software programs. Unlike traditional office printers, 3D printers do not print in ink. There is a wide range of substances that objects can be printed from – depending on the desired outcome – from plastics to food stuffs. Having trouble visualizing how this process works? This video (http://video.seattletimes.com/1279920256001/3d-printing-at-uw/) featuring students and faculty of Mechanical Engineering labs at the University of Washington provides a great visual look at how 3D printing works.
3D printers have a multitude of uses and potential uses that are being explored across domains. (more…)