on 30 April 18
In recent years, the power and versatility of 3D printers has reached a whole new level. What started as a manufacturing tool for car companies has now become a hobby for the average consumer - as predicted, printer costs have continued to go down and their features have gotten more advanced. Today, printers aren't limited to plastic figurines and jewelry; there are a variety of new materials that you can use to make innovative goods. Here are just five items that are now possible with 3D printer technology:
1. Drones: Recent research at Southhampton University has led to the SULSA, which is a printed, unmanned drone that can fly up to 90 miles an hour and remain in the air for about 30 minutes. This plane is both amazing and scary, since it has the potential to be mass-produced and only takes about 10 minutes to assemble. With only four structural parts, the SULSA doesn't require the use of screws or traditional fasteners, making it virtually silent in flight. Luckily, the world's first 3D-printed aircraft doesn't have a hi-def camera or a gun turret, so it isn't for spying or military means. It would make for a great model plane to fly with your children, though.
2. Guitars: New Zealand-born designer Olaf Diegel is at the forefront of 3D-printed musical instruments, and he got his start with an electric guitar. First, he creates a body design and prints a mold using special filaments. Then, the body is custom painted and all of the electronic hardware is installed inside the frame. Many professional musicians have played his 3D-printed instruments and find that they sound impressive - not to mention that the process is the most affordable way to create strange guitar shapes.
3. Skin: PrintAlive - a new bioprinter that crafts human skin to be used in grafting operations - won this year's James Dyson Awards and continues to receive accolades for its revolutionary approach. Developed by University of Toronto students, the printer draws a patient's own microfluid from a cartridge and prints it in ultra-thin layers that are just like human skin. Instead of transferring a large section of skin from one area of a person's body to another, this portable machine will allow surgeons to speed up the grafting process and make it far less painful.
4. Candy: Printing companies like industry pioneer 3D Systems have invented specialized machines that use sugar to print unique candies. Just like a 3D printer that uses plastic filaments, the Chef Jet extrudes tiny layers of dry sugar from a cartridge; then, it sprays a high-powered jet of water over the sugar to crystallize it. Using this new technology, chefs can make confectionaries in any shape.
5. Surfboards: A few startups in the 3D printing world have begun to focus on water sports, crafting custom boards from thermoplastic and fiberglass that have built-in microchips inside the frame. In tandem with a smartphone app, you can learn about your surfing habits and gain precise data about your favorite spots.
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