Just because you have a 3D printer doesn’t mean you’re going to make anything remarkable. It doesn’t even mean you’re going to wind up with what you set out to produce. Believe it or not, 3D printing requires some skill. And when you don’t have it, things go delightfully askew.
While there are plenty of possibilities with a 3D printer, there’s also just about as much room for human error. You can’t let the printer get too hot. But it must be hot enough! And you don’t want it to work too quickly. But it has to work quickly enough! You’re going to mess up. But you’re not alone. Here are some of great examples of some pretty egregious 3D printing failures:
Whistles that can’t even whistle should be called something else.
I ordered this skull and heart from Shapeways.com, a well-known 3D printing service. The 4-inch-high skull is heavy and beautiful (the heart hasn’t arrived yet). You can choose from many items with 3D patterns already uploaded, or upload your own. Some items are available only in the white plastic discussed below, and others in several other materials such as metals and ceramics. Both of mine are in stainless steel. I’m planning to learn some 3D modeling software and design my own holiday gifts this year.
Jonathan Rowley reaches into the basin of white powder and like a magician pulls out the frame of a pair of spectacles. Made of plastic, they’re the same white as the powder, but hard, and unusually shaped.
Designed by Ron Arad for PQ Eyewear, each hinge on the glasses consists of segments like an armadillo’s tail. “We made these here,” Rowley says, indicating a hulking white machine behind him, which looks like a cross between a dry cleaning apparatus and an industrial oven. “The thing is, you couldn’t make these any other way,” he says.
3D printing starts by designing objects on a computer and then printing them with thermoplastics (and in this case, lasers) in super-thin layers to create intricate finished objects.
Having got its start in making prototypes for aerospace and automotive companies, and latterly for surgeons looking to make precisely tailored replacements for bones, 3D printing is now blossoming.
The technology has been used to make everything from jewellery to replacement jawbones, but the question is, how big is 3D printing going to get? The estimates vary, but it’s always in the billions. Terry Wohlers, an analyst who has followed the field for years, argued last September that the technology has hit its “tipping point” and is about to expand into wider usage we’ll see every day.
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