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  3D printer

Above - the emerging object
Below - the rolls of material

Without a doubt I am a member of a somewhat older generation. We had the privilege of being born directly after the war and thus being able to experience the longest period of peace ever had in Europe.

In Germany this period is sometimes called the 'Wirtschaftswunder' (the economic miracle), whereby, as a participant one only realizes this later on. If it had been called the 'technical marvel', I would have found this to be more plausible.

Sure, the motor car was already there, even the jet airplane and television. Indeed, both of the latter were only able to assert themselves after I was born. As far as computers are concerned, the same thing has happened.

Which brings us to our subject. Previously, one could say that one was interested in- or worked with computers in general. Nowadays, people can aquire the most varied skills with the computer but are not able to understand the knowledge that others have in different fields.

What's the point of this long introduction? Because probably, a similarly large revolution, like computing or the internet, is rising up on the horizon, namely 3D-printing. While the one side is still arguing whether this is a even manufacturing process, others are gathering facts.

One could imagine this to be roughly the reversal of 3D-scanning, which is generally a part of the process anyhow. The above picture should make this clear. A 3D-model is scanned into- and shown on the computer and the 3D-printer creates it, as if it were, a copy.

Now you'll probably be thinking of a figure created by an artist. Far from it. A 3D-printer like this can have the most diverse materials at its disposal and can apply and laser the materials together in layers having a thickness of µ-meters.

That which is currently being offered, looks a little comical and hardly suitable for general industrial production. It's also very difficult to imagine, that one day motor cars may be built using this method, indeed, according to reports, the construction of a simple bicycle should already be possible.

Of course, hollow cavities are not a problem. Also the data from external scanning is insufficient. However, this is actually only a question of interlinking the almost futuristic operating-software for 3D-printers with the customary construction programmes.

Whoever has seen the way that virtual cables can be laid using modern CAD-software and how they behave as if they were real, will know that 3D-printing will only really take off, when the connecting of the 3D-printers to this new software is intensified.

There are already printers, which can process not only ABS-plastics, but also three different types at one go. The space into which the 3D-object should fit, may already be a cube with an edge-length of 25 centimeters. Even the prices are no longer in the industrial component region. Building kits for low complexity production, are already on the market for just under 1000. Thinking very far ahead, this system is comparable to a further industrial revolution. Take a look around you. How many people are still occupied with manufacturing consumer products and how many are administrating our world or performing services? If this development takes off, will the individual eventually become his/her own manufacturer?

To be quite honest, I think that the dreams of a 'David and Goliath' precedence, e.g., against the concentration of cheap manufacturers in China, are somewhat premature. Indeed, it would be interesting, if one could download wishes as software from the internet, presuming of course, one has enough material, however, this would not be the first new technology whick took longer to thrive and flourish than was first thought. 12/12               Top of page               Index
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Translator: Don Leslie - Email:

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