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3D Printing is BIG NEWS!

May 30, 2013


Desktop 3D printing/manufacturing is becoming the ultimate Do-It-Yourself technology.

Watch this video to see how it works!

These days, the mention of 3D-printed weapons conjures up visions of people printing AK-47s in their garages...but a recent story in the Armed Forces Journal explains a military application of 3D-printed warfare.




According to Lieutenant Commander Michael Llenza, the Navy's future lies in converting aircraft carriers into “floating factories,” each carrying a fleet of 3D printers to churn out weapons, drones, and even shelters at a moment’s notice.

Rectangular packages of powder that can be printed into bullets when needed saves money and time - like drive-thru take-out food.

Contour Crafting is a building-sized 3D printing system that produced drones (UAV) overnight.

The eventual goal is to print replaceable drones from ships - a drone that flies right out of the printer with electronics and motive power already in place!

The University of Virginia printed a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) controlled by a relatively cheap Android phone whose camera was used to shoot aerial imagery. Designed for a top speed of 45 mph, the aircraft crashed on its first flight. The students just went back to the lab and printed out a replacement nose cone, a capability envied by any squadron maintenance officer.

Before 3D printing can be used as a large-scale military inventory strategy, the structural stability of many materials needs to be more consistent — so right now, replacing critical pieces of machinery is out of the question.


Desktop 3D printing/manufacturing is becoming the ultimate Do-It-Yourself technology.

The "desktop manufacturing" revolution is so close that even comedian Jay Leno--a collector of vintage motorcycles and cars--now uses a 3D printer to produce replacement parts for his classic vehicles.

    Any antique car part can be reproduced with these machines. If you have an original part, you can copy it. Or you can design a replacement on the computer - then the 3D printer makes it for you. If you have a worn out part, you can fill in that missing link on the computer. Then you make the part in plastic and have a machinist make a copy based on that mold. Or you can input that program into a Fadal CNC machine which reads the dimensions and replicates an exact metal copy.


A Texas-based, non-profit group called Defense Distributed has just made the CAD blueprint file for a gun available "for free" online. It fires real bullets and all you need to make and own the gun is a 3D printer. This non-profit company is challenging gun laws.

The gun is made of plastic using a 3D printer, which deposits the material layer by layer by squirting it out as it scans across, line by line - in the same way a regular printer does.

The only non-plastic part for the gun is a metal nail that is used as a firing pin. It is the only part that would be detectable by metal detectors that check for weapons.

The company has produced a video that invites people to download the CAD (computer-aided design) file for the gun from a website called DEFCAD.


Take a design for a simple product -- an engine part, for example, or a piece of silverware, and feed it into a computer. Press "print." Out pops a physical duplicate, made out of materials plastic, ceramic, metal -- even sugar. Press "print" again, and out comes another copy--or feed in a new design, for the next necessary object.

It may sound like a scene from a low-rent version of Star Trek, but it's real, and it's happening with increasing frequency. Right now, most 3D printing is limited to single-material objects and we're now starting to see two-material 3D printers. Most systems use plastics, but a few use metal "toner." The latter is turned solid by a variety of high-tech means.


It could be awhile before families can purchase 3D printers for as much as a CD burner costs today.

Right now, 3D printers are available for under $5000 Dollars but prices are ever falling. The Makerbot is available for under $ 1000 Dollars. The new generation of machines are starting to reach an affordable price-level.

Instead of buying a 3D printer in the near future, online digital manufacturing services will offer a network of decentralized production facilities.


On the near horizon are systems with multiple material inputs and electroactive and electronic polymers. This creates the possibility of printing out basic electronic products--sensors, RFID-type tags, even simple communication devices by the middle of the next decade.

When 3D printing systems move into the realm of molecular-scale manufacturing, more complex and powerful products will become available at the touch of the "print" button.

If 3D printing follows the footsteps of laser printing, then Desktop manufacturing could become the ultimate "maker" culture in which commercial products are bought off from online stores and printed at home.

3D printing technology threatens the manufacturing industries which will cause resistance to their development. The old system won't collapse without a fight. Wal-Mart won't go away any time soon.

3D printing/ manufacturing means a big shift in the relationship between people and their material world. It opens up the possibility that personalized products now available to those with the right money and know-how may soon be available to everybody.

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