The Influence of the 3D Printer

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3D printing took the world by surprise in 1983 when Charles Hull invented the first 3D printer, but it also took the nation by storm in the late 2000’s when commercial 3D printers first became available. Since the product is now accessible on a wider market, it has changed the way that consumer-focused products are being manufactured and is prompting producers to re-think and re-create some of their products.

But what is all the hype about?

The 3D printers at theCO are largely used to print miniature prototypes of ideas that CO:members have, but they also provide amusement to those who use the machine to make small Mario characters and other fun designs as desk decorations.

Although 3D printers have wide-reaching benefits like the ability to customize products to individual needs at a cheaper rate, there has been some concern about the ramifications of having such a powerful tool at the average consumer’s hand. The lengthy dispute between Defense Distributed, a company out of Texas, and the Texas State Department recently ended in allowing Defense Distributed to upload models and plans of a 3D printable gun online, allowing consumers to download and print guns without background checks or regulations. Even though it is possible to print guns with a printer, it is not a simple process and does ensure that the guns will actually work. Even still, it raises questions about the use or abuse of 3D printers.

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Aside from Texan non-profits making potentially phony and oversimplified gun blueprints available for download, plenty of companies have used 3D printers for research and to advance current technology. For example, 3D4MD is a company started by Dr. Julielynn Wong that plans to use the printers in remote areas to print medical supplies on an as-needed basis. Whether Dr. Wong is printing medical supplies using solar powered printers in underserved regions of the world or printing a finger splint for an astronaut on the space center, she is suggesting a revolutionary idea to the world of 3D printing and medical industries.

With innovative people like Dr. Wong dreaming up new ideas, the 3D printer could serve a completely different purpose than its original intention. Not only is a 3D printer able to provide medical supplies, but it also allowed Volkswagen to create a record-breaking electric car. By having the power to print customizable and light weight parts, the engineering team at Volkswagen was able to print and create a prototype for a car that performed exceptionally well at the 2018 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

So stop by theCO and check out our 3D printers to see what new things you are able to create

Learn more about Volkswagen’s innovation here, and about Dr. Wong’s medical breakthroughs here.