The future husband and I went to Munich's first Maker fair "Make Munich" 2 weeks ago. Among other nerdy things 3D printing was the main focus. Fabbster even provided a bunch of 3D printers to try printing yourself. Of course the future husband came prepared and had downloaded a free Batman Cookie Cutter Object File from the MakerBot Thingiverse. We were able to claim a 3D printer for ourself and with a little help from the Fabbster Team we got the printer going.
So how does 3D printing work? According to Wikipedia it is "a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model, it is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes."
The objects made at the fair were mostly plastic, so how it works is the machine pulls in plastic "ink", melts it and "prints" it on a surface one layer on top of another in the shape of the desired object. Not that complicated if you think about it. It just sound so futuristic!
The printer started making our cookie cutter by printing a base of plastic, which would be removed at the end. This was pretty important, because the plastic sticks to the surface and had to be scraped off.
The yellow thing in the middle moves around pretty quickly. The diagonal, vertical and horizontal bar allow it to move and shape the batman logo.
Like a pro! There were many admirers.
Almost finished. Sticking out of the middle you can see where the plastic gets drawn in to be melted and printed. Usually it would be drawn in automatically from the stack on the right, but it wasn't working right so the man had to fill it up for the entire print of about 40 minutes.
Close up. You can kind of tell that it is made of layers, but there were some printers and prints showcased where you couldn't even tell. Especially with the prints made of other materials like wood and metal (don't ask me how that's "melted" down and layered).
The cookie cutter was already in use to make some awesome Batman Cookies.
The big issue with 3D printing is copyright and piracy. There was a talk by Roman Keßler about whether 3D technology is opening the Padora's box. I was really looking forward to this talk, because I am dealing with the german copyright law in my job and am also personally interested how the copyright progresses and and how to deal with new technology. Sadly this was not a professional talk as I had hoped, but a "What if.." situation assembly. What if I print out a 3D object for private usage? Was the print file aqcuired legally? Can I sell this object?
Most question were left unanswered, because the technology is not quite far enough and the printer's not cheap enough to be available to the broad public. But it is going to be soon and I can't wait!