December 20, 2012
Fabricated future: New Scientist's sceptic's guide to 3D printing
New Scientist's sceptic's guide to 3D printing sort out fact from fiction.
3D printers are now cheap enough to buy for the home, and even if you can't afford one yet, it's possible to buy all manner of objects online, printed to order. Proponents claim that the technology will revolutionise how we shop, and even how we come to see the objects we use everyday.
We'll soon be downloading and printing physical possessions as easily as we download music, they say, and customising objects to meet all our individual needs.
Yet many of the claims seem more like science fiction, and this year, the hype has been peaking.
... The numerous gotchas for personal 3D printing are becoming clearer. It's currently slow, with complicated models taking hours to fully finish. Then there are the twin enemies of gravity and friction. Complex models often require extra material to support various parts so that they do not collapse during printing. And there's always a risk that the object will become unstuck from the base plate, or that layers will split apart during printing, possibly requiring the print job to be restarted from scratch.
Many of these challenges will probably be worked out as hardware improves, but more lurk ahead.
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