Now that we can buy a personal 3-D printer for not much more than an iPad, what might we be likely to do with one?
We can already access toy, decor, jewelry and other designs to print at home and tinker with our own printable designs. We can also look forward, in the not-too-distant future, to being able to print components for everyday devices and household goods, so manufacturers could sell us designs rather than replacement parts when things go wrong.
An upcoming show can provide some inspiration for aspiring 3-D print producers. The 3-D Printshow in London next month will bring the future of manufacturing to the British public for what organizers claim is the first time.
Among the highlights is a performance from the first-ever 3-D printed band, with guitar, bass, violin and drum sticks all created using the method. There will be lots of jewelry, sculpture and other artwork as well as a collection of shoes and boots with attitude. Visitors can join workshops from leading experts including Jason Lopez, who created 3-D printed body armor for Ironman 2 and commission 3-D printed "mini me’s" that are created using body scanning technology to produce exact replicas of a full-size person.
In addition to products aimed at ordinary consumers the show features some exhibitors showing more niche, cutting-edge uses of 3-D printing technology: for example a company that scans mummies and reconstructs what’s inside so that fragile wrappings don’t have to be removed.
Members of the medical community have been at the forefront of exploring the possibilities of 3-D printing, often using human tissue, with a range of developments including the printing of a human kidney.
At the London show, visitors can view the work of Brazilian design graduate Jorge Lopes Dos Santos who has developed a way of making physical models of fetuses using data from ultrasound, CT and MRI scans. One possible application could be for blind parents who are unable to see ultrasound scans. He developed the project in collaboration with Dr Stuart Campbell, a pediatric cardiologist at Imperial College, London.
Take a look at some of the 3-D printing applications on show in the gallery above.