3D printing changes future of manufacturing - Chicago News and Weather | FOX 32 News

3D printing changes future of manufacturing

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ATLANTA -

Say you need to use a wrench, but you don't have one handy.  What if instead of running out to the store, you could just sit down at your computer and print one out?  It might sound like science fiction, but thanks to 3D printing, it's already possible.  

Printing is no longer limited to ink and paper.  Now, people in metro Atlanta are printing out everything from cell phone cases to auto parts to musical instruments.

3D Systems is a company that will "print" out items for anyone who places an order.  Their machines put down one layer of plastic at a time.  Brian Ford of 3D Systems says the company believes that the manufacturing industry is actually powered by 3D printing.

The possibilities are endless.  Scientists used 3D printers to make a robotic hand for a South African boy who was born without fingers.  In Minnesota, a technology instructor is seen in a YouTube video explaining how to print the shell of a hair dryer.  

Basically, 3D printers can make anything that is comprised of a single material.  Electronics and wiring are added later.

Giuliano Moschini of Lawrenceville shelled out $800 to experiment with his own 3D printer.  He says once you decide what to print, you can come up with your own design or download someone else's.  Then, you wait, because it could take hours for the objects to print.

Of course, with the advancement of any new technology come new concerns.  There have been recent headlines about 3D printable guns.  Congress is worried that in the near future, it will be possible for someone to print a fully-functioning gun. People have already been successful in printing gun parts, like magazines.

Companies are experimenting with all kinds of materials for 3D printing.  The shell of a car was printed with a special type of plastic that is as strong as steel.  Architects are also now using a variety of 3D printed materials to build houses.  And, Cornell University researchers are putting living human tissue in 3D printers to build replacement ears for people who need them.

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