Is 3D Printing About to Explode? What You Need to Know About This Emerging Technological Empire

3d printing
Image by: Nyxchaotica
By: Giovanni Fields

I’ll admit that before delving into this article I was completely ignorant as to what the whole 3D printing craze was about. The way I imagined it to function was similar to that of traditional paper and ink printing, except instead of just flat paper and ink, the results would resemble some grotesque origami like concoction that can be crushed by a mere pillow. I know—some imagination right?

Apparently, my personal interpretation of what 3D printing is, was as inaccurate as a bat on a tropical island. The results were, to say the least, extraordinary. I found myself wonder-struck at how advanced we’ve come.  From using tree bark to tie sharp rocks on the ends of sticks, to—at the mere push of a button—replicating nearly any item we want, from body parts, jewelry, weapons, and even food constructed with actual human tissues and cells.

Sounds interesting (and kind of gross) doesn’t it? Well, if you’d like to learn more about the most eye catching development in printing since the late Johannes Gutenberg invented the amazing printing press, then feast your eyes below.

#1) How it Works

Despite being cutting edge, from what I’ve gathered, the 3D printer resembles a piece of technological machinery from the 1989 film “Honey I Shrunk the Kids.”

It’s looks complicated, and impossible to operate, but the premise of this machine is fairly simple: send a scanned image of an item or body part to the printer and the machine starts building it. Easy enough, but the process can take anywhere from 5 to 6 hours to construct something as small as an ear. So before you consider sending an image of that Escalade you’ve been considering financing, keep in mind that it may just take an eternity for the machine to build.

3D printers use a type of ink known as ‘Bio ink’, which is a mixture between biodegradable gel and actual human cells. I know, kind of scary right? That means whatever item you send through this printer will, in a sense, be an extension of you.

While it may seem strange to use your actual cells to construct these items, it really comes into benefit with patients in need of a select body part. Typically, when grafting donated parts to somebody, the major problem comes in when the cells don’t match and whatever body part was grafted starts to be rejected.

This problem is alleviated with the use of a 3D printer because the operator will be utilizing their own cells to construct the parts, effectively minimizing the chances of rejection. This is an undeniably amazing breakthrough in science, because it will increase the amount of organs that are available for patients in need of extremities.

Although scientists can currently construct fingers, ears, skin and other smaller body parts, it will still take at least another decade to create more complex organs such as kidneys and lungs–which means you’ve got to wait at least another 10 years to carelessly binge on alcohol and cigarettes.

 #2) Where to Get One?

Got $2,200 dollars on you? What are you sitting around for then? Go buy yourself a 3D printer!

It’s science fiction come to life. The idea that you can send a 3D model or image to a machine and have it print out the exact thing is literally unbelievable. Which is one of the many reasons a store was opened up (In Manhattan), to prove to the population that it is in fact possible, and very accessible. But don’t get to excited, the type of 3D printers available to the public are still only fundamental (only prints using plastic, and exclusively items smaller than a shoebox), and seen as nothing more than “cool” or a novelty item. Only 20,000 have been sold, mostly to Architecture  firms across the U.S.

While this concept may seem innovative and revolutionary, the concept had been floating around since the 80’s. The only difference from now and then is businesses exclusively used such hardware to prototype various objects. These days it has reached a level of technological maturity that allows it to exceed the exclusions of prototypes to create working car and machine parts that are used in actual life! And the best part is the offspring of these 3D printers are made much cheaper and lighter than hand made metal based objects.

So, if we as a species survive another fifty years or so, expect to see houses, cars and perhaps even meals entirely constructed of human cells and tissues (I doubt it happens but that would be kind of neat wouldn’t it?)

Would you ever consider making a trip to New York to get your hands on this fantastical bit of machinery? If so, what would you use it to make? Tell us everything below!