Feeds

WTF is... 3D printing

Roll your own

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

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.

Boost IT visibility and business value

Next page: Home made

More from The Register

next story
Kate Bush: Don't make me HAVE CONTACT with your iPHONE
Can't face sea of wobbling fondle implements. What happened to lighters, eh?
Apple takes blade to 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display
Shaves price, not screen on mid-2014 model
iPhone 6 flip tip slips in Aussie's clip: Apple's 'reversible USB' leaks
New plug not compatible with official Type-C, according to fresh rumors
FEAST YOUR EYES: Samsung's Galaxy Alpha has an 'entirely new appearance'
Wow, it looks like nothing else on the market, for sure
The agony and ecstasy of SteamOS: WHERE ARE MY GAMES?
And yes it does need a fat HDD (or SSD, it's cool with either)
YES YES YES! Apple patents mousy, pressure-sensing iVibrator
Fanbois prepare to experience the great Cupertin-O
Steve Jobs had BETTER BALLS than Atari, says Apple mouse designer
Xerox? Pff, not even in the same league as His Jobsiness
TV transport tech, part 1: From server to sofa at the touch of a button
You won't believe how much goes into today's telly tech
Apple analyst: fruity firm set to shift 75 million iPhones
We'll have some of whatever he's having please
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.