Why I like my 3D printer

I came across a Popular Science article that talks about the idea of printing out a wing in 3D. As interesting as that process is there is a great video on the page of a youngster talking about the process. You can choose 1080p resolution and it’s worth the wait for it to load up.

With all that is going on in the world today this young man gives us a reason to look to the future with hope and a smile.

Here’s a good article that I came across earlier today on Facebook: http://www.economist.com/node/18114327

Cool. I will admit thought that I feel like a complete idiot (even after reading a few articles) trying to understand exactly what these things produce. Am I correct in that (presently) these printers are mainly used to create non-functioning models and scale models, functioning simple, non-electronic items (bowls, screwdrivers, knives etc.) or components that are then assembled into a functioning item (ie. mobile phone, cordless drill, ski bindings etc)?

Yes It’s mostly used to model stuff but you could make functional items as well. If you’re looking for flaws in a design or just wanted a 3D prototype to hold for sales purposes it’s a great tool. Imagine being able to make a tool box that holds all your sockets exactly the way you want them. you could just print one out. Or maybe that weird bracket in the refrigerator broke and you can’t find a replacement. Convert a couple of pictures into cad drawings and hit print.

I had known about 3D printing for some time, but just recently found out that there’s a service you can send your CAD designs to, which will then print them for you from the raw materials you selected. Now all I need is to learn some CAD skills…

An aircraft manufacturer I used to work for used theirs to print structural parts and assemblies to test fittings and clearances before approving final designs. Handy to be able to visualize fits and such without actually machining aluminum.

The abilities of these machines are in a state of flux. There’s the plastic extrusion process mentioned in the video above, but there’s also a sintered metal process that makes some pretty amazing, and relatively strong, parts:
http://www.3axis.us/direct_metal_laser_slintering_dmls.asp

(and holy cow, googling for that shows me they’re even farther along than I thought!)

Your 3D printer? Is it a normal one that you have access to, or have they started making home versions?