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(108,903 posts)
Sat Jan 5, 2013, 08:21 AM Jan 2013

3-D Printing Technology May Bring New Industrial Revolution


Three-dimensional printing technology, used industrially for the last few decades, is poised to break into the mass market. Its endless and swiftly developing possibilities -- from entrepreneurial manufacturing to the potential creation of human organs -- are likely to create a new industrial revolution. Here, a graphic of the 3-D printing technique known as "sintering."

Here, an patient-customized surgical device created by German company Eos. It may even someday be possible to sculpt human organs using the technology.

When the TV series Star Trek first brought the starship Enterprise into German living rooms, the concept of a replicator was pure science fiction, a fantastical utopian vision we might experience one day centuries in the future. Replicators, something of a mixture between computer and miniature factory, were capable of creating food and replacement parts from next to nothing. They were highly practical devices, since Captain Kirk couldn't exactly take along a lot of supplies for his journeys through outer space. That futuristic vision, though, has receded far into the past -- overtaken by the present.

The real-world replicator-like technology poised to revolutionize the world is known as 3-D printing, though that term is misleading, since the process has little to do with printing. Three-dimensional printers can be as small as a suitcase or as large as a telephone booth, depending on the object they are meant to faithfully replicate from a 3-D computer blueprint. Inside the machine, the product is assembled by stacking extremely thin layers of material on top of one another, sort of like reassembling an apple that has been cut into super-fine slices.

Many different technological routes can be taken to reach the same goal. In one variation, nozzles spray liquid material into layers. Another method, which produces even better results, aims laser beams at finely powdered material, causing the grains to fuse together at precisely the spot where the beam hits. All 3-D printing techniques, however, follow the same principle: The object grows layer by layer, each one just a few hundredths of a millimeter thick, until it acquires the desired shape. This technique can be applied to steel, plastic, titanium, aluminum and many other metals.


(14,910 posts)
1. Unfortunately I do not see this as being a major breakthrough for society as a whole...
Sat Jan 5, 2013, 08:28 AM
Jan 2013

Much like healthcare itself; using the potential of this technology to sculpt organs for surgical implant, regardless of how widespread it's reach; will remain a product available for only the wealthy and donor elite.

Fascinating technology; however it's breakthrough existence towards society as a whole is doubtful in my opinion.

Nye Bevan

(25,406 posts)
3. Utter nonsense. Is bypass surgery and chemotherapy only available to the "wealthy elite"?
Sat Jan 5, 2013, 08:46 AM
Jan 2013

This is incredibly exciting stuff. Don't be such a Debbie Downer.


(2,774 posts)
4. Not sure about that.
Sat Jan 5, 2013, 09:15 AM
Jan 2013

One of the advantages of bioprinting is that it makes it possible to use substantially lower quantities of costly materials to achieve therapeutic effect. Recombinant growth factors like BMP-2, for example, can be pretty damned expensive and have nasty side effects due to the supra-physiological doses used in conventional therapy. Bioprinting results in improved targeting and, in some instances, superior retention, making it possible to achieve comparable therapeutic effect with 1000-fold lower doses. That's all pre-clinical....but it has a lot of potential.


(14,910 posts)
5. I hope that you are correct...
Sat Jan 5, 2013, 09:21 AM
Jan 2013

Please pardon my cynicism on the topic; I am especially brash this morning on the topic of profit over common good.

Thanks for some perspective.


(58,162 posts)
10. the same thing was said last century....
Sat Jan 5, 2013, 11:21 AM
Jan 2013

i used a mimeograph machine in the 60`s to print out my newspaper. today i have a printer half the size , dirt cheap, and more options that i could only do by hand in the 60`s.

this will revolutionize manufacturing

A Simple Game

(9,214 posts)
11. Small original and replacement parts are only a download away.
Sat Jan 5, 2013, 03:54 PM
Jan 2013

download and print the replacement part for your car, keyboard, whatever.

Various metals are already an option, just more expensive, but time will take care of that problem most likely.



(15,472 posts)
2. It's right up there with Gutenberg's printing press !!!
Sat Jan 5, 2013, 08:28 AM
Jan 2013

The first thing that impressed me a couple months ago is when one of the biggest holders of inter-net stocks sold most of it to invest in 3-D printers. Then I saw a video here on DU of a company in Mass. that make a perfect working replica of a huge wrench, I'm sold .


(45,358 posts)
6. It's nifty for sure, but I think the big change will happen when the printing is done by..
Sat Jan 5, 2013, 09:38 AM
Jan 2013

nano machines on a molecular or even atomic level instead of just curing resin with a laser.

Historic NY

(37,242 posts)
7. I'm looking for a place in my area that has one....
Sat Jan 5, 2013, 10:41 AM
Jan 2013

we need to make a couple new moulds from some old 18th century stamping plates. They are so worn out they will not last much longer.


(1,601 posts)
8. In the Dental Lab we are using this technology everyday now
Sat Jan 5, 2013, 10:56 AM
Jan 2013

Now instead of hand waxing a porcelain crown framework, a full gold crown, an implant abutment, an all ceramic crown we use a scanner to get the patients model into the computer. We then design the crown where depending on what material we use it comes back in three days from the "printer lab" as a wax/plastic pattern that is then cast or a "zirconia" framework that has been printed and heat treated. After almost 40 years hand fabricating crowns and bridges I thought this would be BS. It actually works quite well, in fact amazing! Combined with the dentists using a scanner in the mouth to take virtual impressions... well the future is here. Its really very cool.

(it is also another nail in the coffin of a formerly all handcrafted skilled craftsman type job that will be gone and even now is not a place to start a career. ITs too bad too, it has provided a very good living for many years. Dental Technicians are going the way of carbon paper manufacturers or stonecarvers for building trades.)


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