One of 3D printing’s most whimsical promises—and this is a technology whose promise, at this point, is mostly whimsical—is the ability to copy and riff on nearly any physical object. Last week, that promise, as far as a handful of famous sculptures is concerned, became a reality: a group of 3D printing enthusiasts from the MakerBot community visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and scanned 34 sculptures with 3D capture software loaded on their phones, while Met curators guided them through the galleries.
The scans were then converted into blue prints that people with 3D printers can use to make their own tiny copies or to make their own works of art. People have already begun to print their own, like the bust of Marsyas above, and post their photos on Thingiverse, MakerBot’s social database of designs.
This tiny speed racer measures 285 microns long and was 3D printed using a new technique developed at Vienna University of Technology. The printer pumps out thin lines and layers of resin, which harden when hit with a pair of photons from a laser, a kind of 3D printing called two-photon lithography. By adjusting the way the laser is produced and tweaking the formula for the resin, the team managed to make the hardening process much faster, so that what used to take hours can now take seconds. The printer can now shoot out five-meters’ worth of resin—in an extremely fine line, of course—per second. Conventional 3D printers of this sort, on the other hand, produce in millimeters per second. You can watch the racecar being made here: Read More
An 83-year-old woman operated on last summer was the first person to receive an entire 3D-printed jaw transplant, her Belgian doctors announced Monday. The woman’s own lower jaw was riddled with infection, and given her age, and the fact that reconstructive surgery would have been a long and painful process, her doctors decided to have a new jaw specially manufactured for her. The replacement jaw is made out of titanium, assembled in thousands of layers by a 3D printer. It took 4 hours of surgery to get the jaw in place, but that’s just a fifth of how long a reconstructive surgery session would have been. She will receive follow-up surgery later this month to have permanent dentures attached to the jaw.
The new jaw is about 30% heavier than her old jaw was, but the doctors say she’ll get used to it. Someday, though, patients may be able to get replacement bones printed in more bone-like material: scientists are working on getting 3D printers to accept calcium-based substances as ink.
Image courtesy of LayerWise
We often write about the amazing, charming, ridiculous things that 3D printers makes possible: see the fabbed hermit crab shells, the space shuttle made of pureed scallops and cheese, the “pirated” Penrose Triangle. But machines that can make any physical object using only resin powder can also be turned to more nefarious ends. Security blogger Brain Krebs reports that someone has deployed at least one impressively sophisticated ATM skimmer in LA that appears to have been 3D printed. The device fits over the front of a bona fide Chase ATM. Just looking at these babies sends a chill down your spine—this person or persons knew what they were doing. Here’s more from Krebs: Read More
A uPrint 3D printer in action
What’s the News: Earlier this year, designer Ulrich Schwanitz, a Dutch designer, made a real model of an “impossible” object—the Penrose triangle—using a 3D printer; he then started selling these models, through a company that printed them, for $70 apiece. When another designer figured out how to make a 3D blueprint for the shape, and put it up on Thingiverse, an open-source site for printable objects, Schwanitz lodged a copyright complaint against Thingiverse.
Although Schwanitz soon rescinded the complaint, it was the first instance where 3D printing ran smack up against copyright law. ars technica has an excellent piece looking at intellectual property issues that are likely to arise as 3D printing becomes better, cheaper, and more widespread, letting consumers create all kinds of stuff at home.