Imagine you are sitting on your couch, watching TV and relaxing. An ad pops up saying to buy a 3D printer and almost never go shopping again. This printer can print almost anything you can buy in the store. What is this machine? Well, you are about to find out right now.
3D printers are the new generation machines of printing everyday objects. The possibilities of creating are limitless. You can even create plastic toys, ceramic cups, concrete houses, cars or anything exciting like a functional human body part called prosthetics.
3D printers replace traditional methods of single line production. They can create different things using different materials all in the same machine. They are changing our present and will change the future too. They will take a major role in the manufacturing process very soon. The world, you can make anything at home, it’s very different from what we live in today. We can save our time from online shopping and in-person shopping, and no wait time for out of stock of products. Also, could be environment friendly by reducing packaging and transport of goods which reduces pollution. So never underestimate 3D printers.
Why is it called printing?
A 3D printer is like a regular printer, but then a little different. Instead of an ink cartridge in a regular printer, 3D printers use spools of plastic, rubber, wax, special biological material or metal. Unlike a normal printer which prints text documents, 3D printers create 3 dimensional objects, like the real life objects like the one you designed on your computer screen.
Why is it called 3D?
3D is short form of “three-dimensional”, which means an object has height, width and length. These printers create 3 dimensional objects like a replica of you.
How do 3D printers work?
The process starts by designing a model on your home PC using software or buying it online. Next choose the appropriate material and click Print. Sit and watch while the printer does the rest.
The printer first virtually makes the model into many thin slices. Then it prints each slice very thinly so it is smooth and all the details are covered. After a layer is done it moves a bit up and makes a new layer on top of the previous one. Imagine it’s like baking slices of bread and gluing it together to make a huge loaf of bread.
Each layer can be complex. The layers stick together to make a solid object. This process continues until the model is finished. The time taken to build an object depends on the height and complexity of the object. Sometimes it could even take a day.
Future of 3D printers
● Although printers are expensive now, later on many people could afford them as the prices of printers are dropping and rarely go shopping as they can print at home.
● Printers will be available at the library for people to use.
● Some people reuse plastic by cutting the plastic and melting it to make filament, which minimizes environmental problems.
● Someday, printers could make food using non-toxic filament called shrilk(made from shrimp shells and silkworm fibers) which is food-safe and better for the planet.
● People with internal and exterior human body parts problems can benefit from the 3D printers.
● The military and merchandise can use it to make spare parts for jets and ships. It could even be used in outer space for printing spare parts too!
Though it is fun and exciting technology, it comes with its own problems
● Plastic is made from oil, which is fossil fuel.
● Everyone printing their objects at home could result in manufacturing jobs loss.
● More people use 3D printers, more plastic junk will end in landfills and water.
● Plastic causes air pollution when it melts.
● If the printed object and sold is not safety approved like a bicycle helmet could be dangerous to use.
● Dangerous objects could be printed like a knife or gun that children could get their hands on to harm themselves or others and even adults.
● Too much usage of plastic could cause a global shortage of plastic which means that packaging, toys, etc could become more expensive.
● NASA is trying to make a 3D printer that can work in space and it could make a house on the moon so it will be the first step of humans living in outer space.
● Doctors have made a kidney using special materials which was functional for 3 months.
● People have managed to make a 3D printer using Lego Mindstorm Ev3, legos and a hot glue gun.
● Kodjo from West Africa made a 3D printer using old electronic parts.
● Markus Kayser used a special box of sand. Lens was used to direct sunlight. The sand turned to glass. Then using solar power the printer moved the lens which created a glass bowl.
In the future, 3D printers could be much more than you think. It is a part of the information age. Despite all the values, good or bad, technology is already in use for example in automotive, aerospace industries. Nobody can stop its growth. Manufacturing industries will face major challenges to adapt to these changes. The opportunities for engineering and technology are clearly huge and endless.
Article written by : PIYUSH
Age: 8 years
School: Dingerman Elementary School, San Diego, California
Published on: 25th Aug 2021