Feeds

WTF is... 3D printing

Roll your own

High performance access to file storage

Head along to London's Design Museum and you'll find a remarkable shoe on display until August. Called the Melonia Shoe, it’s perhaps not what most Reg Hardware readers would wear, but it is remarkable, not so much for the design, but because it was printed by Belgian product prototyping company Materialise and Sweden-based designers Naim Josefi and Souzan Youssouf.

On a grander scale, EADS in Filton, near Bristol, is using printing techniques to create titanium landing gear brackets for aircraft. It hopes soon to be able to print a whole wing.

Melonia Shoe

If the boot fits: the printed Melonia Shoe

But while both may be referred to as ‘3D printing’ there’s a world of difference between the two processes, and they’re not the only ways of creating real objects from a three-dimensional computer model. So, just what is 3D printing?

It's something of a catch-all term, used to describe some very different technologies, and encompassing things like stereolithography, rapid prototyping and "additive manufacturing". But at heart, what the name conjures up is the image of a device that, once fed the right instructions, can churn out any object that you want, from shoes to aircraft parts.

In reality, that’s still some way off. While there are some machines that can use two print heads to lay down, for instance, conductive tracks as well as polymers, creating objects that use several materials, or that emerge as fully formed machines rather than components is some way off.

How does 3D printing work? The phrase 'additive manufacturing' gives the best clue: objects are built up layer by layer, based on an template created with design software.

EADS

EADS' airbike: printed from nylon powder

Imagine an inkjet printer. If it were laying down a thin layer of plastic, instead of ink, the resulting image it would represent a slice through an object. Now, if the printing surface is dropped down by the thickness of a layer, successive layers can be printed on top of each other, and the end result is a three-dimensional object, created by adding material in layers than can be below two hundredths of a millimetre in thickness.

High performance access to file storage

Next page: Home made

More from The Register

next story
Video games make you NASTY AND VIOLENT
Especially if you are bad at them and keep losing
Report: Apple seeking to raise iPhone 6 price by a HUNDRED BUCKS
'Well, that 5c experiment didn't go so well – let's try the other direction'
Nvidia gamers hit trifecta with driver, optimizer, and mobile upgrades
Li'l Shield moves up to Android 4.4.2 KitKat, GameStream comes to notebooks
Gimme a high S5: Samsung Galaxy S5 puts substance over style
Biometrics and kid-friendly mode in back-to-basics blockbuster
Dell Wyse Cloud Connect: Pocket Android desktop
Ultrathin client with a lot of baggage. The upside? It's a rogue sysadmin's delight
AMD unveils Godzilla's graphics card – 'the world's fastest, period'
The Radeon R9 295X2: Water-cooled, 5,632 stream processors, 11.5TFLOPS
Sony battery recall as VAIO goes out with a bang, not a whimper
The perils of having Panasonic as a partner
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
NORKS' own smartmobe pegged as Chinese landfill Android
Fake kit in the hermit kingdom? That's just Kim Jong-un-believable!
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.