3-D Printers, from Craig Mee

April 26, 2012 |

 I found this comment by "Global Guru" on the perceived shift back to the west in manufacturing very interesting:

And for all the talk of the decline of the United States, and the rise of China, India and Brazil, much of the know-how behind this shift is coming from the world's developed economies, with the United States far in the lead.

Much of this historical shift is thanks to the rise of three dimensional (3D) printing. Although it's hard to get your head around it, 3D printing is actually pretty much what it sounds like. Design a part on your computer using some type of three-dimensional software and the "printer" actually manufactures it for you right then and there. In many ways, 3D technologies are the closest things to Star Trek-like transporters you can have. Scan an object in Silicon Valley, and another machine in South Africa can build a copy.

3D printing provides for mass customization on an unimagined scale. And chances are it's already part of your life. Your last customized dental crown or hearing aid was manufactured using this technology. Companies soon will be making customized drugs based on your own DNA sequence. I have no doubt that other 3D printers will one day be manufacturing customized hearts and livers from your body's own cells.

The applications of 3D printing know no bounds. New 3D technologies are helping carbon fiber replace steel; breed viruses to make batteries; and help researchers at Cornell "print" cupcakes. 3D also helps manufacturing processes to accelerate at an exponential rate. While it took 3,000 hours to manufacture a carbon fiber Formula 1 race car in 1981, today it takes four.


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