The other day I had a family do, and as happens a lot these days, I forced everyone present to witness a 3D Printing demonstration.

All in all about 20 odd people saw my print small shot glasses as examples of the 3D Printer in action.

Start with ‘Ta Da!’

I started by saying ‘Ta Da!”

Then I explained how the printer printed and I showed the 3 axises. I then discussed the software (Design – Slice – the Print) and finally began a print. While the file was printing folks asked me questions about 3D Printing.

Most of the time I directed them to the appropriate page on my blog. Folks were most impressed by the medical applications and the more technical were impressed by the ability to easily produce complex shapes.

One of those folks was my much loved Mother in Law Jeanette. She wrote about her experiences below in her newsletter:

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Recently my (much adored – Ed.) son-in-law had occasion to show me his new toy, except that it isn’t a toy. It is a very real, personal 3-D printer! The real deal.

Back in the Day…

Jeanette's Book covers how the different colours are found in Horses - http://www.chalani.net/hce

Computers used to be this big and powered by steam.

Now I remember only a few years back when my then husband was reading in a magazine that soon the technology would be available to send a message down a phone line and have the message printed out at the other end on a simply inconceivable fax machine! When I wrote my book on equine inheritance, it was done without the benefit and knowledge of DNA testing. In fact when I first learnt about Mendel in school, genes had yet to be discovered, they were just something scientists believed existed.

I used to marvel at what my 95 year old grandmother had witnessed in her lifetime, some of the greatest changes of any century, from horse and buggy to man on the moon, electric light to computers, socks to panty-hose, knitting to online clothing catalogues on e-bay. Not all changes for the good some might say.

What is a 3D Printer?

So how does a 3-D printer work and what is the point of it?

Well commercially they are very expensive and would mainly be used in manufacturing, but the medical innovations are beginning to be amazing. Imagine copying a pattern of a person’s bone that needs replacing, such as for reasons of injury or cancer and replacing it with bone purpose-copied with a suitable material on a 3-D machine? Believe it or not, this is already being done!

Personal 3-D printers are now relatively affordable, but mainly for enthusiasts who like to be at the “cutting edge”. Because the printer [I was shown] is open source (that is, no copyright) the 3-D printer can also be used to reproduce itself; just copy the parts and assemble a new one!

How does it work?

The printer uses a template or pattern [a CAD file] that is on your computer (which could have been sent from anywhere in the world, or be something already existing that you have copied) and uses any desired material that can be melted into a shape. It then follows the pattern to create a new shape out of that material. Different materials and colours need to be “assembled” to make the whole.

3-D printing is the Future! (now)

Where will this all lead? Who knows, (just as once computers were so cumbersome fitting into a huge room, but now they fit into a mobile phone.) At the time, we had no idea where it would all lead, but there is always someone with vision who can take it to a new level.

We can either view technology as a hindrance, making our lives that much faster and more complicated, or as innovation to embrace, leading to something better down the track. Either way, we can’t stop progress.

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Thanks Jeanette!

Hopefully this keeps me in the good book of Jeanette for a few more weeks!

 

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Ponoko have picked up this article – thanks guys!

By On 25 November, 2011 · Leave a Comment · In Guest Posts, Musings
 

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