The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

3-D Printing Takes Shape

In 2012, 3-D printing technology will go from prototyping to production

4 min read
Photo: Randi Silberman Klett
Too, Too Solid: The robots (above, at left) are from My Robot Nation; the movable concentric rings (created that way—no assembly required) and the folded-overbicycle chain are from Stratasys;the gold-plated metal matrix andthe glazed ceramic vase (right) come from Ponoko.
Photo: Randi Silberman Klett

The promise of 3-D printing is tantalizing: You envision something, draw it with the right software, and then print it in three dimensions—regardless of how many parts it has, how they interlock, or whether they will even be accessible once your creation is completed. With this strategy, anyone can make almost anything. Someday, lots of stuff will be manufactured this way, on demand.

Full realization of that promise remains a long way off, but the bandwagon is rolling. Thousands of machines, ranging from kit-built tabletop models to commercial behemoths capable of printing the body of a small car, are out in the world producing parts. And starting this year, the United States’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is planning to put 1000 production-quality 3-D printers in high schools across the United States as part of its Manufacturing Experimentation and Outreach program. Even if you don’t have access to one of those machines, you can get a free download of Autodesk 123D, a 3-D computer-aided-design program still in public beta testing, which gives you push-button connections to online 3-D-printing services, of which there are now dozens, if not hundreds. So if you’re not already printing objects on a regular basis, there’s a good chance that in 2012 you will be.

Keep reading...Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Deep Learning Gets a Boost From New Reconfigurable Processor

The ReAAP processor allows AI to be faster, more efficient

2 min read
different colored beams of light shooting up
iStock

This article is part of our exclusive IEEE Journal Watch series in partnership with IEEE Xplore.

Deep learning is a critical computing approach that is pushing the boundaries of technology – crunching immense amounts of data and uncovering subtle patterns that humans could never discern on their own. But for optimal performance, deep learning algorithms need to be supported with the right software compiler and hardware combinations. In particular, reconfigurable processors, which allow for flexible use of hardware resources for computing as needed, are key.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

Rory Cooper’s Wheelchair Tech Makes the World More Accessible

He has introduced customized controls and builds wheelchairs for rough terrain

6 min read
portrait of a man in a navy blue polo with greenery in the background
Abigail Albright

For more than 25 years, Rory Cooper has been developing technology to improve the lives of people with disabilities.

Cooper began his work after a spinal cord injury in 1980 left him paralyzed from the waist down. First he modified the back brace he was required to wear. He then turned to building a better wheelchair and came up with an electric-powered version that helped its user stand up. He eventually discovered biomedical engineering and was inspired to focus his career on developing assistive technology. His inventions have helped countless wheelchair users get around with more ease and comfort.

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}

Industrial Functional Safety Training from UL Solutions

Build knowledge and skills to better navigate today's functional safety landscape

3 min read

UL Solutions offer personnel certification at both the professional and expert levels in automotive, autonomous vehicles, electronics and semiconductors, machinery, industrial automation, and cybersecurity.

UL Solutions

This is a sponsored article brought to you by UL Solutions.

Invest in building your team’s excellence with functional safety training and certification services from UL Solutions, a global safety science leader.

Our UL Certified Functional Safety Certification programs provide your team opportunities to learn about — or deepen their existing knowledge and skills in — functional safety to achieve professional credentials in this space.

We offer personnel certification at both the professional and expert levels in automotive, autonomous vehicles, electronics and semiconductors, machinery, industrial automation, and cybersecurity.

You can now register for any of the offerings listed below. All our instructor-led, virtual courses provide a deep dive into key functional safety standards.

Keep Reading ↓Show less