3D Printers

Abraham Niu, 12th Grader || 10.18.18


      3D printers are making an introduction into our world. There are a growing amount of companies manufacturing these compact machines, because they are becoming very useful in many fields of science. What are 3D printers? What do they do? Why and where are they useful? 3D printers are printers that replicate a digital model of an object to a real three-dimensional model. They can print using a variety of materials, which allow for many purposes; such as industrial manufacturing, medical fields, and common civilian use.

      3D printers print using a CAD model on a computer, which it converts into many layers to print. An inkjet nozzle, containing the material to be used, is moved on an X,Y, and Z axis and dispenses the material layer by layer on a platform, moving higher and higher. This process takes around a few hours to a few days, maybe even weeks, depending on the size. After that, another thinner layer of the material can be added to have higher resolution and detail. The materials can range from edible materials to plaster and polymer and can be switched out based on the use.

      In industrial manufacturing, 3D printers can be used for rapid manufacturing of many things. The US armed forces are considering using 3D printing F-35 jets, and they already are printing parts of unmanned drones and flying them into the air. 3D printing is used for manufacturing products because it is quick and cheap. Since it is done by one machine, there is rarely any error in the design and no tools are required.

      3D printers are gradually becoming useful in many medical fields today. They can make personalized parts for the individual person, such as casts for a bone fracture. These casts can be recycled when finished using, and made into other casts because they will be made of polymer. In 2013, scientists in China experimented with 3D printers. They were printing various body parts, such as ears, livers, and kidneys. They accomplished this by using a material of living tissue. These parts could possibly be implanted into real bodies and be used like a regular body part.

      Although it might seem like 3D printers are extremely advantageous in our society, they can be also used for things that are illegal. A company called Defense Distributed made a design of a 3D printed gun, which it gave out to the public. The US Department of State closed it down, but the design files are still floating around in the vastness of the internet. DD also made designs for the body of an AR-15 rifle, and a 30 round magazine. If anyone with a 3D printer could print a gun, there would be guns and chaos everywhere. Now, in many places in the world, 3D printing weapons is illegal and should not be done. Manufacturers could easily implement a filter in the 3D printer so to not print any illegal products.

      3D printers are gradually making a rise in our world. They could be used for many things since printing is so fast, easy, and cheap. Manufacturers, doctors, and regular people can all use 3D printers to an advantage. 3D printers are versatile, and they come at a reasonable price. In the future, they can be making all the things we use in our daily lives.