In movies and video games, 3D printers are a common sight, and for years, it seemed like they would stay in the world of fiction. However, the technology has significantly improved to the point where we can print just about anything with the right materials. Here’s a few of the most unusual objects:
A potential game-changer for dessert creators, you can now print chocolate when you replace the normal cartridge with one filled with melted chocolate. There’s even a printer that was designed specifically with chocolate in mind; it’s called Choc Edge. The printer software converts a drawing into a 3D model, and then generates code for the printer. The chocolate creation is then printed layer by layer. If you have the funds, you can buy one for yourself on the Choc Edge website.
3D printing clothing is very challenging, because it needs to be flexible enough to wear. The most common method is to print garments in mesh systems, so parts print individually, and then human hands assemble. Some very unique garments have been created over the years, like the Pangolin 3D printed dress, which used a nano-enhanced elastomer. This gave it both the required flexibility and strength. It took 10 printers and 500 hours to print the pieces, which were then connected together – almost like chains – to bring the dress together.
The medical world has been working overtime to figure out what 3D printing can do for them. Instead of a material like plastic, scientists use substances they’ve created from cells for squishy bits, or ceramic powder for bones. Recently, in Israel, scientists successfully printed a complete 3D-printed heart using a hydrogel they created from human fatty tissues. It’s the size of a rat heart, but this stepping stone is important. In the future, we might be able to print body parts and organs for transplants that perfectly match the people that need them.