For better or worse, it may soon be true that anyone with a computer and a 3-D printer could become a gunsmith. You can put together the Liberator handgun from parts churned out by a 3-D printer using designs available on the Internet. Within 48 hours of downloading the design, software engineer Travis Lerol (video) of Baltimore, Md., used his US $1300 3D Systems Cube printer and $30 in materials to make his own working pistol.
Photo: Rex Features/AP Photo
Want an Aston-Martin luxury car but don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend? You can do what Ivan Sentch of Auckland, New Zealand, is doing: He used his Solidoodle 3-D printer to print out the parts for a replica of the 1961 DB4 model he coveted. Though original DB4s regularly sell for more than a million dollars, Sentch expects the materials for the body, frame, and chassis to cost him around $2000.
Photo: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images
How about a permanent souvenir of your child’s gestation that’s better than a grainy sonogram image? Fasotec, a 3-D computer-aided-design company in Chiba, Japan, has just the thing: a white resin model of the fetus encased in a clear resin model of its mommy’s belly. The memento is created by a 3-D printer using data provided by an MRI scan.
Imagine a bicycle designed, from the tires up, with you in mind. The Airbike, whose dimensions can be adjusted with a few keyboard clicks, may be the forerunner of a bespoke riding experience. The bike, made from nylon by engineers at the European Aeronautic Defense and Space group, is as strong as steel but weighs only 35 percent of what a metal bike would. The additive layer manufacturing process takes care of everything, including the wheels, bearings, axle, and drive chain, in one go.
Before you go off to snap pictures, you can snap together this film camera. The OpenReflex, which features a mirror viewfinder and a mechanical shutter, is made from plastic parts that a consumer-grade 3-D printer can turn out in about 15 hours. The open-source design plans include instructions that let just about anyone put the pieces together in about an hour.
Photo: Frank Wojciechowski
Three-dimensional printing has changed the track engineers are taking toward man-made living tissue. One example is this “bionic ear” produced by researchers at Princeton University. Using additive layering, they formed a scaffold of hydrogel polymer to support a cartilage of calf cells, and then added a silver-nanoparticle antenna to precisely mimic the human ear’s topology. Best of all, the ear gives the wearer the ability to hear frequencies well beyond those normally accessible to humans.
Photo: Scott Summit
The tried-and-true shape of the acoustic guitar could soon give way to other configurations as designers follow in the fret—or rather, footsteps—of 3D Systems, which has built a visually arresting instrument out of $3000 worth of plastic and an ornamental steel plate. Having proved that plastic will stand up to the string tension, the designers are playing around with other configurations they hope will please the ear as much as the eye.
Photo: Universal Architecture
Building a typical house takes dozens of people handling many different but interdependent tasks. But the Landscape House, an 1100-square-meter structure that will be completed sometime next year in Ireland, will have just a single contractor handling the construction—the D-Shape printer, which is even larger than a predecessor known as the KamerMaker (“room builder”) that is capable of spitting out objects as big as 6 by 9 meters.
Photo: Iris van Herpen
What makes this outfit, which made its debut at Iris van Herpen’s Paris Fashion Week show in January, different from most frocks? The designer collaborated with experts from the MIT Media Lab and Materialise, the Belgian company specializing in software for additive manufacturing. Stratasys, a leading 3-D printing firm, handled the fabrication end of the production. The company was able to build in texture and stretchability using Materialise’s technique for combining hard and soft materials into a single printing.
Photo: Yves Herman/Reuters
This highly detailed model shows the results of a collaboration among physicians and engineers to restore parts of a patient’s face lost to cancer. After the man was left disfigured after the loss of his right eye, cheekbone, and upper jaw, Belgian prosthetist Jan De Cubber and clinical engineers at Materialise, a Belgian 3-D printing firm, made new silicone and titanium parts that were modeled on the unaffected parts of his face.