A series of new advancements are increasingly pushing 3D printing into the mainstream. 3D printing can now be applied to a greater variety of applications and diverse product groups. Prices are going down — way down! — too. A recent wave of home printers are opening up the technology to consumers who want to flex their creative muscles, prototyping everything from food to fashion to children’s toys.
Will 3D printers soon emerge as a common household gadget? Here’s what’s on the horizon:
- Fab@Home Food Printers: Cornell University’s Creative Machines Lab aims to bring 3D printing into the kitchen. The French Culinary Institute (FCI) is helping the Lab create and develop “food inks” that will be used to print edible items. Users load up the printer’s syringes with raw food — anything with a liquid consistency, like soft chocolate, will work. The ingredient-filled syringes will then “print” icing on a cupcake. Up to this point, the printers have produced foods from ramen to scallop nuggets to cakes with secret messages hidden inside, and the chefs at FCI are experimenting with new combinations and presentations. Whether or not Fab@Home will improve upon the way in which Americans currently eat has yet to be seen.
- Origo: Origo makes it possible for children to “build” anything they can imagine. Kids put their minds to work by creating sketches on a platform called 3Dtin. Then, Origo “prints” the dreamed-up sketch using very thin layers of plastic. While the Origo is still in a prototype phase, the developers hope it will soon become a common tool for “fostering childhood creativity.”
- Make Eyewear: This cool, new eye-wear line is produced using selective laser sintering (SLS), a 3D printing process that fuses thin layers of nylon to form a final product. And since each frame is built from scratch, customers can completely customize their own styles.
- Urbee: KOR EcoLogic’s hybrid vehicle blazes new ground in that it’s the first automobile prototype with a body produced solely using a 3-D printer. The two-passenger vehicle also has the ability to be charged from any accessible conventional energy source.