3D Printing In Action: Hands, Spoons, and Gold?

3D Printing In Action Hands, Spoons, and Gold?We’ve covered 3D printing a few times here on our blog–once when we were talking about cool new manufacturing technology, and another time when we were talking about what 3D printing actually is.

And today, we’re going to go a little further into the world of 3D printing to show some of the coolest things that are currently being produced by these awesome little machines.

Here are a few of our favorite new examples of 3D printing in action:

  • Prosthetic hands. Joel Gibbard’s Open Hand Project is an open source project with the hope of using 3D printing to make robotic hands more accessible to amputees. The 3D printed hand is about a tenth of the cost of a traditional robotic hand, and though it’s still in testing, is looking like a viable option for people in need of a prosthetic hand. How cool is that?
  • Gold! Though the gold plated brass isn’t actually being 3D printed in this case, 3D printing is used to create highly detailed molds that can then be cast in brass. It allows for very intricate designs that are much more difficult to make without a 3D printer. Gold plated brass may not be as life-changing as a prosthetic hand, but hey–it’s still pretty cool.
  • Titanium. Unlike the gold plated brass above, there is a new way to 3D print titanium. Models made in titanium are printed in titanium powder that is sintered together by a laser to produce end-use metal parts that are as equally good as machined models, and as of right now, titanium is currently the strongest material that you can 3D print. This should have a lot of really great applications for replacement parts.
  • 3D printing on the ISS. This last example is really just awesome. NASA is in the final stages of a plan to put a 3D printer on the International Space Station. The printer will be used for small replacement parts–which would otherwise have to be flown up by rocket–and should prove to be pretty useful to the astronauts aboard the ISS. Who would’ve ever thought that we’d see 3D printing in space?

Although there were some people who questioned the usefulness of 3D printing when it was first coming around as a new technology, the outlook today is much more positive. Scientists, engineers, and manufacturers are all finding new ways to use this relatively new technology, and the really cool thing is that we get to see it all happen right before our eyes.

So who knows! 3D printing has come so far even in the last year that it’s hard to say how advanced it could be within the next few years.

We’ll have to wait and see, but in the mean time, we can all sleep well knowing that we may be only years away from 3D printed pizza. And who could argue with that?

Check out the video below to see the new 3D printed prosthetic hand in action:

photo credit: watz via photopin cc