If you believe the hype, print in 3D will transform the way we manufacture everything on the planet, putting the power to create in the hands of ordinary people.
Of course, the process itself is nothing new. 3D printing has been around for 30 years and is an expensive process on an industrial scale. There are many different methods, but all the options to print in 3D take a computer model and build it up layer by layer, fusing dust particles or melting polymers to create a solid object.
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Print in 3D: a revived interest
The current interest in print in 3D has arrived thanks to devices like the Makerbot (opens in new tab). They may be cruder than their industrial cousins, creating layers by squeezing molten plastic through a nozzle, but they are relatively inexpensive. Suddenly, 3D printing is realistic for thousands of hobbyists.
UK-based artist Brendan Dawes (opens in new tab) is one designer who was immediately bitten by the 3D printing bug. "The idea that you could have a machine at home that could make things appear out of nothing seemed full of possibilities," he explains. "I'd known about rapid prototyping for a long time but now it was possible to own a machine for around £1000 and print physical objects."
Nick Allen of 3DPrint-UK (opens in new tab) agrees that reduced set-up costs are bringing new opportunities: "Designers can get their projects manufactured without having to outlay thousands of pounds tooling up." For Nick, the process compares to podcasts and blogging, providing a platform for raw talent. "It's a way of getting noticed. In future some of our most iconic designs will have begun life on a 3D Printer."
With new developments being announced every day, we've gathered 10 of our favourite 3D creations, hailing from hi-tech University labs to amateur garage setups. So, what will you make?
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01. SLO Printed Lens Camera (opens in new tab)
A fully-functioning 3D printed camera is impressive enough by itself, but what's really amazing about Amos Dudley (opens in new tab)'s design (you can inspect it in detail below) is that it boasts a 3D printed lens, made using clear resin and a technique called stereolithography.
It took two months of testing and prototyping to create the SLO - much of which was focused on getting the lens right - and you can see how it was made, as well as some of the photos taken with it, here (opens in new tab). It's still early days for 3D printed cameras and actually printing one yourself might be a bit of a tall order right now, but it's an exciting use of the technology.
02. Widow's Kiss (opens in new tab)
This isn't a 3D printing project for the faint-hearted. A stunning 1:1 scale replica of the Widow's Kiss gun from this year's smash hit online game, Overwatch (opens in new tab), it's built out of around 40 parts, requires 1425 grams of filament and will take roughly 122 hours to print, and that's before you even think about putting it all together.
The best bit about it? Just like the in-game version, this Widow's Kiss converts from an assault weapon into a four-and-a-half foot sniper rifle, and features movable shrouds, telescoping barrel sections, a fold down rear sight, and collapsible main scope. Thankfully, its creator Indigenous Effects (opens in new tab) has provided a must-have guide that'll help you put everything together.
03. Nuke Lamp (opens in new tab)
It was love at first sight for this Nuke lamp. Created by Italian designer Luca Veneri, with its complex surfaces created using real fluid dynamics simulations. The lamp consists of 2 parts and is currently available to purchase at a price of... wait for it... €1369.62. If only we could win the lottery!
04. Dinosaur bones (opens in new tab)
Paleontology has been using the same, solid tools for around 150 years. However, Dr. Kenneth Lacovara of Drexel University decided it was time for the art of digging up dinosaur bones to catch up with technology.
Palentologists can now use the required skills to print in 3D to make replicas of their bone findings to send to doctors and scientists around the world. This way, the discovery can be truly researched without restrictions.
05. Mars Rover (opens in new tab)
3dMarvels is a great site to look at for all things 3D; showcasing new 3D printed designs weekly, the site also explains how the model was created. Their latest collaborator Michael designed and printed this stunning replica of the Mars Rover.
06. Yoda (opens in new tab)
This is one 3D printing creation that we'd have on our desk any day! The sculpture only took an impressive five hours to print in 3D, and was printed at .1 mm layer height with a 10% honeycomb fill. Created by Jonathan Wong (opens in new tab), you can gain the instructions (opens in new tab) from his website and make a Yoda of your very own! Have fun you will.
07. Birdsnest egg cups (opens in new tab)
This adorable egg cup was crafted by dutch designer Gijs de Zwart (opens in new tab). Since graduating from the Delft University of Technology back in 1999, Gijs set up StudioGijs which is where his 3D prints come to life. These egg cups are printed on demand in laser sintered polyamide and come in packs of 4. You can buy yours from Shapeways (opens in new tab).
08. Your face in chocolate (opens in new tab)
Have you ever wanted to eat your own face? Well, thanks to print in 3D, now you can! The 'Eat Your Face Machine' (EYFM) is a 3D printer developed by David Carr and the MIT Media Lab. The EYFM scans your face and then recreates it onto a block of chocolate. The end result being your face, in chocolate, ready to eat. NOM!
09. Customised iPhone case (opens in new tab)
3D printing has become a lot more affordable in days of late. Thankfully, that means that more of you will be able to craft your own 3D creations including these customised iPhone cases. If that sounds a little daunting, head on over to designers Polychemy (opens in new tab), where you can choose your style, colour and name for your smartphone case.
10. Demon girl figure (opens in new tab)
We've just shown you Polychemy's iPhone cases but get a load of their diversity with this incredible demon girl sculpture. The designer Andrew Baker already has an impressive portfolio, having worked on the likes of District 9 and Peter Jackson's The Hobbit. The sculpture is currently available to buy (opens in new tab) for $207.
11. The invisible shoes (opens in new tab)
Brazilian footwear company Melissas caught the 3D printing bug and have been creating incredible fashion designs ever since. The shoes are made out of a proprietary plastic called Melflex using injection-molding and 3D printing. Any left over material is saved and used for the next print in 3D project, so the process is nice and green! These invisible shoes were created by Andreia Chaves.
12. Ornate Type (opens in new tab)
This is one of the most stunning examples of print in 3D that we've come across. Combining typography and pirates, this creation was designed by Luca Ionescu of Sydney based design studio Like Minded Studio (opens in new tab). The piece was started using a simple pencil design, then Illustrator for finishing the type and ornaments, and the 3D modeling in Cinema 4DXL via SLS printing.
Next page: Guitars, edible brains, and bikinis!