As of late, I have been hearing more and more about something that sounds fascinating, yet I had no idea what it actually was. Replicating everyday objects, perhaps on a large scale, seems like something that could keep me occupied for hours on end. I am referring to 3D printing.
From what I have been able to ascertain, this system is able to recreate virtually anything. A digital model is all one needs to get printing. There are many different types of 3D printing that, upon first glance, left me scratching my head. One commonly used method is called extrusion or Fused Deposition Modeling.
FDM uses a stereolithography file format that uses a mathematical application to arrange and slice the model that will be built. The FDM method has the ability to use different materials at different phases and for different purposes in order to maintain quality and support.
At our current juncture in time, these 3D printing systems currently retail between $2,000 and $500,000, according to NASDAQ. Is this pretty steep? Maybe. Would it be pretty baller to 3D print a lifetime supply of Q-Tips and coffee mugs? Of course it would. Now that is the point where you have to step back and weigh the pros and cons. Now don’t be too deterred by the price, especially since trends show it seems to be going down.
The environmental impact that 3D printing has the potential to make is extraordinary. Imagine people making something when they need it. Limited resources and materials will go to waste because Mom won’t be buying 700 paper plates at Costco just because “it was a steal.” The only drawback that seems to be mentioned time and again is the fact that people are going to have the capability to 3D print guns.
In 2012, a group by the name of Defense Distributed had the brilliant idea to send out an instruction manual to make high powered assault rifles using the printers. The United States Department of State forced them to take it down; however, the information unfortunately spread quickly enough that it will never be fully erased from the Internet.
Seriously though, I can’t truly express how excited I really am for this to be a part of our daily lives. The ability to replicate ordinary objects whenever one feels like it could not sound any crazier. A few years ago I would have thought this idea was something only found in fiction.
On a final note, I would like to appeal to anyone with access to a 3D printing machine to allow me to make an NFL Hall of Fame-style bust of myself that I can put on display as the centerpiece of my apartment next year. I could not imagine anything more necessary than a replica of myself staring right back at me and frankly I do not know how I have made it this long without one.
Dan Maloney is a sophomore studying biological science and a columnist for The Post. Have you worked with a 3D printer? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.