3D printing: The next step in technology

3D printing: The next step in technology

Patrick Kernan, Staff Writer

The next stage in technology is here, and it’s already available for purchase.

A 3D printer is different from a regular printer in that it does not use ink. Instead, it places layers of various materials on top of each other, until the layers eventually combine to create a usable three-dimensional object.
This technology is exciting, since the applications are almost endless.

For example, the construction of a house that is made completely of 3D printed material and that can actually be occupied began recently in Amsterdam, led by the Dutch company DUS architects.

According to an article in Metro, the house will be made out of hotmelt, a material that is 80 percent bio-based.
Hedwig Heinsman, founder of DUS Architecture, pointed out another way in which the project helps the environment.

“With 3D printing, there is zero waste, reduced transportation costs, and everything can be melted down and recycled,” Heinsman told Metro. “This could revolutionize how we make our cities.”

3D printing can also revolutionize the way people see medicine. According to an article from The Independent, a 22-year-old Dutch woman recently had new 3D printed skull fragments implanted into her head, the first time this has been done.

Dr. Bon Verweij, who led the 23 -hour surgery three months ago, expressed excitement over the usefulness of 3D printed implants.

“Using 3D printing, we can make [an implant] to the exact size,” Verweij said, according to The Independent. “This not only has great cosmetic advantages, but patients’ brain function often recovers better than using the old method [of making implants by hand].”

The patient, whose name was not released, suffered from a condition where parts of her skull thickened, causing her headaches, loss of vision, and loss of facial expressions.

The surgery caused great improvements in the patient, according to Verweij. The patient regained her eyesight, and she is able to return to work.

3D printing may cause safety concerns in the future. If people are able to print whole houses and new skulls, what’s stopping them from printing weapons?

The House of Representatives discussed these concerns in December 2013, according to The Guardian.
On Dec. 3, 2013, the House voted to extend the Undetectable Firearms Act for another 10 years. The act, originally passed in 1998, bans the use of firearms made of plastic.

By extending the act, Congress effectively made the production and ownership of any 3D-printed firearms illegal. The act does little to actually prevent users from making firearms on their 3D printers, however.

Despite the growing concerns over the safety of 3D printing, the advantages cannot be denied. 3D printing marks a visible shift in the way humanity will produce and consume goods.