Mane Engineering Issue 11 - December 2018 - Page 12

For many years now, 3D printing has become a mainstream device used by many companies to produce items. In its infancy, 3D printing would be used to create smaller items that were predominantly plastic and one-off items.

Now 3D printing has evolved to the point where they machines themselves come in a variety of sizes, capable of printing a wide assortment of items from everyday objects to functional pieces of kit. The opportunities of experimentation of 3D printing is still happening today.

Before 3D printing with materials loaded

up to build / print with, printers would, and

heavily do today – reference the transfer of

ink onto a product. From paper to t-shirts to

stationary and more – ink printing has been

around for decades.

Now that printing doesn’t have to be done

with just ink – substitutes have come in

different shapes and sizes. On the smaller end

of the scale, printing in plastic – using a wide

range of cameras to capture angles and

imagery – action figures can be made using

3D printing. The cameras are able to gage a

perspective on every angle of the body, face

and other features and combined with CAD

software, allows a 3D image to be rendered

that can be printed using plastic.

One issue with printing in plastic, which is

seen as the most popular material to print

with in domestic and commercial 3D printers

is that by designing anything to be printed in

plastic you can have items that once seemed

unobtainable. An example of this is in USA

where people would create guns from 3D

printers – an item that needs a license to be possessed in many states. This is a topic being discussed as recently as August/September time by the US Government.

On the other side of the coin, plastic as also been used to great avail and acclaim. One marvel that occurred from 3D printing is the production of artificial limbs, aka prosthetics.

Items from legs, arms, fingers, etc. have been able to be produced and fitted by specialist companies that allow those who have the misfortune of missing limbs to live a life where they are able to function to a point with an artificial limb to replicate the ones they are missing. One famous example of this that went viral on the internet was of a young boy who was missing his arm from the elbow down. Thanks to 3D printing, not only was he able to have his forearm and hand, but it was also in the style of one of his favourite superheroes – Iron man.