Feeds

WTF is... 3D printing

Roll your own

Security for virtualized datacentres

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.

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Next page: Home made

More from The Register

next story
Tim Cook: The classic iPod HAD to DIE, and this is WHY
Apple, er, couldn’t get the parts for HDD models
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
Caterham Seven 160 review: The Raspberry Pi of motoring
Back to driving's basics with a joyously legal high
Back to the ... drawing board: 'Hoverboard' will disappoint Marty McFly wannabes
Buzzing board (and some future apps) leave a lot to be desired
ICO warns UK broadcasters over filming using drones
Must comply with data protection rules, m'kay?
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.