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UnitedLife 06

3D printing is an opportunity to make the world a better place

3D tlač objektov a domov - United Life 06 (1)

Erik Stríž
Project manager, editor
Bratislava, Slovakia

Incredible technological progress we all witness right now is a commitment for us and future generations. Wikipedia defines 3D printing as follows: „A 3D printer is a device that can create threedimensional (3D) objects based on 3D digital data. This process is called 3D printing.“ In recent years this is a particularly attractive topic for many experts and laymen.

All you need to literally turn your ideas into reality is a basic knowledge of 3D modeling, a suitable printer and composite. Its area of application is surprisingly large – from toys and tools for space stations to entire family houses.

The mechanics of 3D printing is relatively simple and that might be the very reason for more and more start-ups producing these printers. They consist mainly out of a nozzle placed on an arm that releases plastic materials which turn into a solid substance within seconds.Various objects with functional and moveable mechanical parts can be made by gradual layering of materials, usually ABS or PLA plastics.

Media has often reported on the possibility to print a fully functional gun with a regular home 3D printer. The finer the materials used, the more precise the printing results. Photopolymers, ABS and PLA plastics, polyamide and even plaster composite are usually used when extremely high accuracy is required. Nature of these materials varies while plaster composite is considered to be the least durable.

3D printing has a much greater significance for households than it might seem at first glance. Perhaps the first thing coming to mind is how parents can make toys for their kids, but there is also a practical use of 3D printing. Several centimeters long tubes from flexible plastic can be made if you need some. Hinges for smaller doors will no longer mean a trip to the store and it is also possible to make stands, lamps, holders, frames and other little practical things.

3D tlač objektov a domov - United Life 06 (3)

 

A new house for the price of a used car

Building houses is the most courageous use of 3D printing so far. The Chinese company WinSun is already building larger and smaller family houses with the help of special large format 3D printers, while the production cost of a medium-sized house with an area of 200 square meters sums up to unbelievable $ 4,800. WinSun uses a mixture of construction waste and cement obtained from recycling as building materials.

It makes this solution not only cheap, but also seemingly environmentally neutral. States and law makers have the opportunity to examine these buildings, evaluate their safety and start using them to provide help to people in need. Resulting budget savings could reach millions of euros.

World's first 3D house printed by the Chinese company WinSun

World’s first 3D house printed by the Chinese company WinSun

 

3D printing works even without gravity

In February this year, NASA published an official report on 3D printing safety in zero gravity. It confirms this technology is completely safe and unproblematic even in places with seemingly no gravity – in orbit around the Earth. Zero gravity does not affect the quality of the final product because the nozzles push out the plastic composite under slight pressure. NASA test results are extremely important particularly in relation to production of certain tools directly at the space station. Only materials would need to be transported which can be later formed into required shapes.

 

A better world thanks to volunteers with 3D printers

3D printing as a tool to create a better world is proving to be quite realistic thanks to online organizations. The e-NABLE organization received a grant totaling 600 thousand US dollars from Google in May this year to further promote their vision – a practical application of 3D printing to help children.

The Enable Community Foundation came up with an extremely valuable idea. They asked the good people from around the world to use their home and business 3D printers to produce functional prosthetic limbs for children and teenagers for free – but with the feeling of having used their device for something meaningful. Mechanical upper limbs prosthetics have to be tailor-made in cooperation with the person who will use them while their price is extremely high. 3D printing changed this, too. The production of one prosthesis is a matter of both a couple of minutes and euros.

The e-NABLE organization has already reached impressive results and proves that the world is full of people willing to help without expecting any reward. These prostheses are completely functional, harmless and able to directly improve lives of disabled people. You can too participate in the program – both as a volunteer who wants to use his own 3D printer or as an applicant whose child needs a functional upper limb prosthesis.

e-Nable Foundation brings together volunteers for 3D printing prostheses for children

e-Nable Foundation brings together volunteers for 3D printing prostheses for children

 

The future is here right now

What we experience every day was merely sci-fi for the previous generation. And here we are today, constantly in touch with friends and family through the internet, our mobile phones and computers. It is the same case with 3D printing which was in diapers only twenty years ago and now it is already commercially used. Today you can buy the cheapest 3D printer in Slovakia for about three hundred euros. The best variants cost around four thousand euros which is quite acceptable for a business customer.

In spite of living the future today, this technology still has a lot of milestones to reach, particularly an expansion to modern households worldwide and creation of standards. It is an area with no limits and thus we believe that 3D printing has the potential to change the world into a better place.

 

Erik Stríž



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