3D printing applications expanding, sophistication increasing
Increasingly, organizations are using 3D printing to create a wide range of products. For example, a number of companies have emerged that use the technology to produce customized action figures or dolls based on either celebrities or the customers themselves.
In other cases, however, researchers are working with 3D printing to develop significantly more advanced projects, as CNN recently highlighted.
Some of the more ambitious work is being performed by Hod Lipson, director of Cornell University's Creative Machines Lab. Lipson told the news source that with 3D printing, it is possible to print virtually any material. This allows for advanced, experimental projects.
"We are focusing on bio-printing and recently worked on food printing," said Lipson. "Now we are focusing on multi-material printing - integrating electric wires, batteries and motors."
Illustrating Lipson's point, earlier this month researchers from the University of Pennsylvania developed a method for 3D printing sugar-based artificial blood vessels. While traditional methods of artificial blood vessel construction tended to fail due to pressure issues, 3D printing allowed the researchers to create more stable vessels, which can improve treatment and healthcare in a wide variety of ways.
No assembly required
Lipson went on to tell CNN that his team hopes to one day 3D print a complete, working robot that would be able to leave the printer on its own power.
"We have been able to print batteries and motors, but we haven't been able to print the whole thing yet. I think in two or three years we'll be able to do that," he explained to the news source.
While there are no reports of anyone achieving this degree of self-creation, 3D printing expert Jacques Kleynhans recently noted to TechCentral that certain Objet 3D printers, such as the Eden, printed all of the prototype parts of subsequent models, achieving a type of self-replication.