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3-D Printing: The Future is Here!

May 1st, 2014

3-D printing. Photo by: Jonathan Juursema via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re young, chances are you’ve heard of 3-D printers — printers that print three-dimensional objects by squirting a hot, melted material (often plastic) through a tube. The object builds as the printer moves and the material hardens as it goes. One expert says it’s like a, “robotic etch-a-sketch hooked up to a giant glue gun”.

It’s still a bit expensive for everyday use, but the thinking is we’ll have our own personal 3-D desktop printers in the near future.

But many are dreaming even bigger … and it seems that if you can imagine it, chances are you can 3-D print it. If not now, then soon. It turns out some people already have amazing imaginations!

Toy companies are working on kids being able to imagine up their own toys … and print them.  And there’s already 3-D printed candy!

(commercials are out of HTE’s control)

(Now that we have your attention …)

A company in China recently  built 10 homes in ONE day using a giant 3-D printer. Are they the nicest homes you’ve ever been in? No. But it could help a lot with homelessness. It doesn’t cost much (each house cost around $5,000). And it’s a pretty environmentally friendly way to build.

It’s also being used in medicine as well. Eyeballs, skin, ear replacements, and organs such as livers are in the works in a new field called bioprinting. That’s more complicated, of course, because you have to use live tissue.

One man recently helped young people in the African country of Sudan make 3-D prosthetic limbs, in this incredible story.

And there’s the possibility of printing food one day to help solve hunger in parts of our country and the world.

There’s even a 3-D printer being tested for the International Space Station that could print replacement parts right in space. That could save lots of time and millions of dollars getting new parts from Earth up to astronauts.  Made in Space !

And for your 3-D doodling pleasure … there’s even a handheld 3-D printing pen!

The possibilities seem pretty endless.

If you could print anything you wanted to, what would you print? (besides money :))

How would you use 3-D printing to help the world?

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