3D printing has become a popular topic lately. While 3D printers that print objects similar to how ink jet printers print words have been around for many years, the cost has come down dramatically, and will continue to come down.
3-D printers are a disruptive technology, and as with any disruptive technology, the law will have to react to issues that come with it. Possible issues include intellectual property, product liability, and use for criminal purposes.
There has been a lot of negative press lately about using 3D printing to create plastic guns. To me that says more about the US gun culture than 3D printing. Like most technologies, 3D printers can be used for good and evil. And like most new technologies, it will take a while for the real uses to emerge.
Home 3D printers are now available, but we are a long way from having one in every house. They are becoming accessible though – the office supply chain Staples recently announced it will provide 3-D printing services at its stores in Belgium and the Netherlands. Here are some examples of what a basic 3D printer can do.
3D printers have been a boon to engineers and architects, who have used rapid prototyping techniques for many years. This article talks about how Ford uses 3D printing to create prototype metal parts such as transmission parts and brake rotors.
3D printing is being used to manufacture parts with complex shapes. This new more fuel efficient jet engine uses 3D printed metal nozzles that are lighter in weight due to an advanced design producible only on 3D printers.
3D printing also has intriguing medical possibilities. 3D printed body parts – using live tissue – is a real possibility. And it has been used to create relatively inexpensive replacement hands. This video about the Robohand is well worth the 10 minute investment.