Just when we thought that Christmas sweets were a thing of the past and the New Year’s resolutions are ready to reshape our lives a company in America has started to print chocolates. This is no run of the mill printer, they are being printed using a 3D printer.
3D printing or Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM) describes a group of technologies that are used to fabricate physical objects directly from CAD(Computer Aided Design) data sources. The first 3D printer was invented 30 years ago and it has been used by the automotive industry since that time for producing parts. In more recent years, the use of 3D printing has expanded greatly with some people suggesting in 5 years time that people will have 3D printers in their own homes. Potentially, if the handle of your fridge were to break a new part could be printed, possibly you could print out a cake tin of the correct size if you did not have one, or even a large pot for boiling large items.
More significantly 3D printing is already changing the quality of peoples’ lives. There is the heart warming story of Emma in the States who was born with a condition that didn’t allow her to use her arms, any aids available were developed for adults and were too heavy for her. The doctors involved in her treatment used a 3D printer to fabricate a custom designed exoskelton which has altered her life completely. The exoskeleton which sits like a jacket on her shoulders has changed her life by providing her with strength and mobility, which are under her control. As she grows and if any part of the exoskeleton breaks they print out a new part.
In 3D chocolate printing, chocolate is melted, tempered and deposited like a printer printing a 2D image onto paper. The process is repeated layer-by-layer to form a solid 3D chocolate product that is defined by a 3D computer design. There is a company in Japan offering 3D face printing at a small cost of just over $5,000, with reprints available at just over 1,000 dollars.
The future options are only limited by imagination and the material available. At present there is development work being done on developing Graphene as a material for 3D printing, Graphene is the strongest known material in the world. Wouldn’t it be very handy for Kerry County Council now if they had this technology to print replacement road and bridge parts.