In Star Trek, they were called Replicators. Today, they’re called 3D printers.
The science fiction genre has long had a strange ability to predict future technological expansions, but this one is downright eerie. Perhaps the phenomenon is because our society has been given the idea. After the idea is planted, you can’t help but desire its existence. Or perhaps TV show writers, authors and moviemakers really can see into the future. Whatever the reason, it has become fact that if someone owns a 3D printer they can replicate whatever they want (as long as it can be made from plastic) from a digital file.
How 3D Printing Works
How is such a thing possible? First, you have to either design the digital file yourself, or choose from an online store that sells pre-made designs. Once you have the file, a 3D modeling program makes very thin horizontal cuts, hundreds of thousands of them, through the digital version of the object.
After that, these cuts are sent as stereo lithography files, or Standard Tessellation Language, to the printer. The printer then creates the object one layer at a time, merging each of them together so there are no fissures. This process is termed additive manufacturing, as opposed to subtractive manufacturing.
To illustrate the difference between these, subtractive manufacturing would be carving a piece of wood down to the desired shape, or subtracting material. Meanwhile in additive manufacturing you are making something by adding material. This process is remarkably similar to the replicator from Star Trek, which used a file containing a pattern for a molecular structure that created inanimate matter.
Who Invented 3D Printing?
The original idea came about through a man named Chuck Hull, who patented 3D printing through the stereo lithography method in the 1980’s. He invented it, quite by accident one evening while working with ultraviolet technology, when he found that a liquid-based material called photopolymers will turn solid instantly when hit with UV light.
3D Printing in the Real World
Medicinal Uses for Additive Manufacturing
This advancement has already made incredible, revolutionary leaps possible in medicine. For example, in 2012, a 29-year-old man involved in a motorcycle accident had reconstructive surgery utilizing this technology. 3D printing created a complete model of his face, drilling and cutting guides for the doctors’ accuracy and titanium implants for his skull. Another instance of its importance in medicine, is when a Dutch woman with a rare bone disease had a skull more than three times the normal thickness, and was suffering pressure on the brain, loss of motor control and vision. Eventually, she would have died from the disease and nothing could have been done to prevent it. 3D printing created a skull implant for her and she was restored to her former health.
3D Printing Could Be Used To Benefit Most Any Industry
Healthcare is not the only industry 3D printing is turning on its head: architecture, engineering, the replication of delicate fossils in paleontology and industrial printing are just a few areas. Nike now uses 3D printing (nikeinc.com), saving thousands of dollars per shoe prototype. The military could also benefit from the technology by transforming many frustrating or inefficient processes into easily handled functions. For example, while warring on foreign soil,, if supplies were lost new ones could simply be created on the battlefront.
The Future of 3D Printing
The general public has only become widely aware of this technology in the past few years, as it has become less expensive. Promoters are hoping that soon, 3D printing will be available to everyone in an even more affordable manner and that it will be able to use materials other than plastic. When this happens, it is predicted by some that the very landscape of commerce will transform. This futuristic world will be one where people can simply print what they need in a matter of minutes, or perhaps even moments, instead of going online to buy it or shopping in the store. Does that new ring catch your eye? Print it out. Need a power tool? You can print that, too. Do you want to send a gift to a loved one on the other side of the world? Send them a digital file so they can print it out, instead of sending it through the mail with all the fees associated with weight and time sensitivity. This world might be one where raw materials might once again become central to trade and where graphic designers might get paid extremely high wages.
Revolutionary methods are an essential part of who ATS Secured is. We are setting out to revolutionize the mortgage closing industry through innovative problem solving. We applaud others who have decided to throw off old ways and structures and pioneer into new lands that, though alien, contain incredible opportunities and possibilities for a better life.
If science fiction can predict the future, then a world with 3D printers as commonplace as cell phones might not be too far off. Beam us up, Scotty.
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