Wednesday - Jun 19, 2019

Is 3D Printing a Positive or Negative Invention?


3d printing

Take a second to recall the moment  you first heard of  3D printing, you will probably remember that feeling of disbelief  that any science-fiction becoming reality can trigger. Indeed, being a technology fan myself, I always have that timeline in my head for when I expect things to happen – but  I certainly didn't expect that in 2014 we would be able to print out objects in our homes with a machine carrying a relatively accessible price point. 

What is a 3D printer?

If you haven't heard of 3D printers, they’re machines that were  used by manufacturers for prototyping and that are now being made available for the public to use in whatever way they please. The machine uses a plastic fabric called filament, that's precisely placed drop by drop to create the object in full 3D. Depending on the filament used, usually ABS or PLA, the objects can be worked post-production, fully solid or even transparent. These commercial printers are sold by companies such as Makerbot, which fully featured machines generally retail around $2000. You can create your own objects using a specific program or download a shared blueprint created by another user from the community.

Disadvantage of 3D printing

However, with the ability to create objects in our own homes comes  disadvantages, and surprisingly (or maybe not so much), 3D printing isn't readily available at present but    people have  successfully printed. One specific report by CBS available on YouTube shows how it is possible to print out gun parts with a 3D printer to then load rounds and shoot. The trend is rather worrying, and the law rather stands in a grey area concerning this way of obtaining a weapon. The man interviewed in the You Tube video states that he aims to make firearms readily available to any household, visibly without taking a stand whether that’s a good decision or not. Surely, laws are laws and the government will certainly take a more decisive stand on this issue as it develops, but this gives 3D printing a rather negative image. Is making 3D printing to all and sundry a good thing in the first place, or  is it better used  in the industrial field? Should we really trust the people’s imagination when it comes to these things?

3D printers in the class room

When we look elsewhere, we can see 3D printers being used in a positive way. They are being introduced to schools  as a modern way for students to use their creativity, especially in the IT field.  3D printing makes the computer classes more lively and real-world oriented. Learning about the production of models and objects could create some very capable individuals for the future. If 3D printing is ahead of its time, we better put it to good use and put it in the hands of those who could potentially revolutionize our world.

In the meantime, other people are working in labs to make the very best out of the 3D printing technology. Organovo (ONVO) is a company  that aims to print functional human living tissue using the advancement of 3D printing technology. Indeed, it’s now possible to create a 3D matrix of a tissue or organ and drop what’s called “bio-ink” that will naturally fuse together to create the desired result.

And then back on the negative side, what about the waste created by all those misprints the world will make, and the extra incentive for people to produce more goods without thinking about their impact on the environment? The PLA filament  is plant-based and is more eco-friendly, but ABS filament is still very popular as it is seen to be stronger by many and more useful for professional-type projects, however, ABS is not plant based.  It’s an issue that we will have to take care of – it’s not only the guns that we will have to bury.

Summary

3D printing is very new and it is already being taken into two different directions. One side is aiming to take the opportunity to manufacture  objects to bypass the law, while others are trying to drive the technology to new heights by either using it for science or as an educational tool for children. Of course, there’s certainly the entertainment aspect of the machine, which pretty much has a neutral impact on things, if we put aside the potential financial effect on the manufacturing industry as a whole. And then if we don’t take care of the environmental aspect of these machines, we could end up being the loosers in the long run.