3D Printing News Round-Up

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but 3D printing seems to be in the news every other week these days!

[For background, here’s my intro to 3D printing, and here are my two posts from the last two months on the process of assembling my very own 3D printer for the classroom.]

Here’s a summary of recent news items on how 3D printing is changing the future:

  • Here’s a video overview from PBS, entitled “Will 3D Printing Change the World?”. It’s an excellent video, about how 3D printing is revolutionizing manufacturing, including discussions of mass customization, consumers becoming creators, potential economic effects, copyright issues, printing living tissue/organs, and environmental uses of 3D printers. I shared it with my students, and I definitely recommend that you check it out:
  • According to NPR, 3D printing “democratizes who gets to be in the manufacturing business. You don’t need a giant factory and million-dollar machines. You just need $500 and a garage.” (source). Or, due to the fact that many local community colleges have 3D printers with some degree of public access, and the rise of printondemand websites, you don’t even need the $500, only the cost of the material (plus a little mark-up for the websites).
  • 3D guns has been a huge topic of conversation recently, following the video demonstration of the “Liberator” gun last month (link1, link2). Since then, the 3D-printable STL file was made available online, was downloaded more than 100,000 times, and then was ordered removed by the State Department. However, the files still exist on the internet (of course – nothing ever disappears from the internet!) and can be downloaded from music/file sharing sites (article). The guns are quite dangerous, both to the target and to the user. New York City legislators have proposed a restriction and a ban on the guns.
  • In tastier news, 3D-printed pizza may be on its way! NASA is investing in research and development of a pizza-printing-prototype (link1, link2). Not sure how soon you’ll be seeing any 3D-printed meals, though, unless you’re an astronaut headed into space. This article, however, envisions a future where 3D printing helps feed an overpopulated world.
  • In organ printing news, Princeton engineers have printed an ear and combined it with electronics so that it can hear radio signals! (article)
  • 3D-printed houses are the next big thing on the horizon! One may even be built (the facade anyway) by the end of this year, printed out of plastic and wood fiber. This article discusses and shows some weirder-looking architecture that may be coming about due to 3D printing. But, to me, the most amazing advance in 3D building technology is what I saw in this video, where a huge 3D printer prints structures out of concrete. I really encourage you to watch the full 12-minute video, but at least check out the following three highlights: At 4:30 is an animation of 3D printing a house; at 5:50 the animation shows how reinforcement, plumbing, and electrical components can be mechanically inserted into walls; and at 6:45 is a live demonstration of the real machine printing out concrete.
  • Finally, 3D printing has made it into pop culture – check out the music video for “Scream & Shout” by will.i.am & Britney Spears.


Filed under engineering

2 responses to “3D Printing News Round-Up

  1. I’ve seen videos of the concrete “house printing” before. It will probably never be approved in California, since delamination in an earthquake is a major failure mode. It would get (correctly) classified as unreinforced masonary, which is not acceptable for new construction. Modifying the printer to have proper rebar reinforcement may be possible, but does not look easy. It is almost certainly cheaper to build forms and use concrete pumps for curved walls, and prebuild tilt-up panels for flat ones.

    • nyates314

      OK, so it may be a few years away before it become fully possible, and a few more (or many more) before it becomes cost-effective. I do believe it’s an amazing expansion of 3D printing technology and quite possibly where we’re headed in the long term.

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