The most common types of 3D printing involve either extruding melted plastic or using a laser to solidify tiny particles, layer by layer, to slowly build up a solid object. But researchers at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have found a way to radically change that process by 3D printing liquids inside other liquids — and it could mean major advancements in gadget construction.
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The plan to 3D-print a bridge in mid-air was always bonkers. How could a technology best known for creating flimsy prototypes and personalised action figures be used for permanent construction projects? Well, the team at MX3D in Amsterdam just answered all of the hard questions and revealed it: the world's first 3D-printed bridge. It's made of a completely new type of steel, spans 12.19m, and will be installed early next year in De Wallen, the largest and best-known red-light district in Amsterdam. It also looks utterly otherworldly.
When affordable 3D printers first hit the market, many predicted the machines - inspired by Star Trek's replicators - would change the world as we know it. Many years later, the world doesn't feel all that different, but now that I can shower under a water-spewing decapitated dragon, I'm declaring 3D printers humanity's greatest innovation.
Video: 3D printers haven't quite ushered in a new industrial revolution, but every day it seems there's another irrational reason why you might consider buying one. As this soothing timelapse reveals, if you have the patience to wait almost 10 days, you could 3D print yourself an impressive replica of the Millennium Falcon in a single pass.
Do you lean more towards the "trick" side of trick-or-treating? Do you, like 98 per cent of the world, wonder who actually eats candy corn? If you answered "yes" to both, then head over to DragonflyFabrication's Thingiverse page where you can download the plans for this double-barreled, wrist-mounted candy corn blaster.
Imagine that every time you needed a prescription, you wandered on over to the pharmacy and a pharmacist printed you up your drugs on the spot. On-demand micro manufacturing would allow pharmacists to customise for dosage, for your own personal biology, or even to combine many pills into one dose. It's a vision for the future of pharmaceuticals that a growing number of scientists hope will make drugs cheaper, personalised and more accessible to far-flung places.
OK, let's not get ahead of ourselves. McLaren won't be deploying an interplanetary squad of space marines to slay brain-guzzling bugs anytime soon. It does, however, have an interest in protecting its valued clients and when one of them asked the company to make some custom armour to protect their body post-surgery, it turns out McLaren was not only happy to entertain the idea, but actually do it.
Video: They have been used by large companies for rapidly creating prototypes for at least a few decades, but finding a reason to put a 3D printer in every home hasn't been as successful. Making accessories for your vacuum? Boring. Building soft drink bottle bridges? Meh. Super-sizing LEGO? Hello holy grail of 3D printing.
Video: Wave a high-powered laser around fast enough, and the human eye will perceive an image in the light trail left behind. That's how laser projectors that cost thousands of dollars work, but it's also how this cheap, 3D-printed plastic contraption turns a simple laser pointer into a full-on light show.
The potential for 3D printing to revolutionise manufacturing is astounding -- if the technology can overcome a few limitations. Researchers at MIT's Self-Assembly Lab have come up with a novel way to both speed up the 3D printing process, and free it from the restrictions imposed by gravity.
Reduce, re-use and recycle are words to live by as we try to minimise humanity's demand for our planet's natural resources. But instead of sending your empty soft drink bottles off to be recycled, scientists from the Hasso Plattner Institute in Germany want you to build everything from chairs, to boats, to outdoor shelters with them.