Feeds

WTF is... 3D printing

Roll your own

High performance access to file storage

Home made

This process is, essentially, the reverse of a traditional milling machine, which cuts away material from a solid block to create an object. One of the advantages of additive manufacturing is that there’s much less waste.

RepRap

HP's 3D printing rig costs around 11 grand

One of the commonly used materials for this sort of work is a polymer, like ABS, extruded from print heads that look a little like a glue gun. You’ll find countless examples of objects like clothes hooks, cups, and fairly simply objects. But that’s by no means all that can be created, or the only way of doing it.

For objects like those titanium aircraft parts, powdered metal particles are fused together with a laser, a process known as sintering. In stereolithography, a laser focuses on the surface of a vat of polymer, causing localised hardening – you can see the process in action in this video – and very complex designs can be created.

Clever software will even automatically add supporting structures, so that you can create designs with internal spaces or overhanging sections, either simply snapping them off or – in the case of systems like the Object Polyjet - by flushing them out with water or dissolving them.

That, in fact, is one of the key things to remember about the current generation of 3D printing systems: many of them don’t produce a fully finished product, and require extra steps like removing supports, or curing polymers using ultraviolet light, before the object is finally ready.

3D printing isn’t the sole preserve of the professional manufacturer. There are several projects that aim to make it easy for just about anyone to print objects at home. One of the most well know is RepRap - read more about this one on my blog. It’s not the only one: there are several similar projects, such as Makerbot and Fab@Home.

RepRap

The RepRap rig, built by Bits From Bytes

Typically open source, you can put together a printer based on one of these systems for under a few hundred pounds, or buy one ready built for under £1000. There are libraries of basic designs that you can download and create, or use as starting points for your own objects, from sites like Thingiverse.

High performance access to file storage

Next page: Fast food

More from The Register

next story
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'
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
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
AMD unveils Godzilla's graphics card – 'the world's fastest, period'
The Radeon R9 295X2: Water-cooled, 5,632 stream processors, 11.5TFLOPS
FOUR DAYS: That's how long it took to crack Galaxy S5 fingerscanner
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Sony battery recall as VAIO goes out with a bang, not a whimper
The perils of having Panasonic as a partner
NORKS' own smartmobe pegged as Chinese landfill Android
Fake kit in the hermit kingdom? That's just Kim Jong-un-believable!
Gimme a high S5: Samsung Galaxy S5 puts substance over style
Biometrics and kid-friendly mode in back-to-basics blockbuster
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
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.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
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.