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In The News
   
 
 

 

In The News

 

Article: Misc. 
 

The O2, the enormous structure formerly known as the Millennium Dome, looms large in the windows of Ravensbourne, the higher education college. Immediately inside the window sits a large, minutely-detailed scale model of the Dome. But itís not the fidelity of the model that is interesting, itís the fact that it was produced by a printer.
Instead of printing ink on paper, 3D printers use a fine powder that sets into a hard, plaster-like finish, building up an object one layer at a time. Building an object layer by layer wastes less material than traditional production methods and makes it possible to produce things that are very hard to make in other ways.
Whatís used now for rapid prototyping could soon bring massive changes not just to industry but to our homes. 3D printing has been around for about 20 years but over the last decade costs have been falling and the range of materials that can be used has expanded. 3D printers used to work mostly with plastics but now itís possible to print with metals, nylon, recycled paper and even print one object using mixed materials.
Aircraft manufacturers are exploring the possibility of printing, say, an aircraft wing, but itís equally possible that we could one day print our own furniture.

ďWhen you can print something like the parts for a gearbox, thatís one thing,Ē says Peter Cochrane, an entrepreneur and futurologist, ďbut when can print a complete gearbox that works, thatís another thing entirely.Ē

Flora Parrott, a lecturer at Ravensbourne and an artist, tells me about plans to scan museum objects so that 3D replicas can be made. It would give historians, for example, the chance to study the inside of an object that could only otherwise be examined by breaking it. It would also mean that schools could print out objects for pupils to handle and explore in class.

Medical researchers have already printed artificial bones, tailor made for people based on scans of their real bones and then implanted to replace bones that have been removed or damaged. The next challenge is to print tissue and create artificial organs using 3D printing.


 
 

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