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3D printers, more than a new toy

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3D printers are here and they may eventually allow you to produce your own products in your own home. Not surprisingly, one of the first products tested by a user was a handgun. 

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Few people will recognise that machine as a 3D printer now, but that is likely to change quickly as they become more and more available. AFP

Click button to listen to 3D printer and rightclick to download

3D printers, more than a new toy

For little more than the price of a high-quality laptop, computer enthusiasts can now get a new "toy":  a 3D printer.

Its uses are still rather limited, but experts say they could soon be at the centre of a new industrial revolution.

A 3D printer in action. The basic idea is quite simple. AFP

The basic idea is simple enough.

First, a 3D digital design is created either from scratch on a computer or by scanning a real object, before being cut into two-dimensional "slices" which are computer-fed into a printer.

The printer gradually deposits fine layers of material – such as plastic, carbon or metal – and builds a physical object.

The product can be as hard or as flexible as you programme the printer to make it, and even include moving parts rather than being a solid block.

A newly-printed object. AFP

Experts say that, in theory, just about any industrial product can be produced through 3D-printing, but it may be best suited for producing small numbers of very specialised products – like customised screws for broken bones which match a patient's specific characteristics.

Other products may not be so socially useful, however. On Monday, a 25-year-old Texas student posted computer files on the internet to create a handgun almost entirely from parts made with a 3D printer.

According to Forbes magazine, the handgun, named the Liberator by its inventor Cody Wilson, was successfully test-fired last week – once.

It blew up when Wilson attempted a second test using a rifle cartridge.

"There's a lot of work to be done," Wilson said afterwards.

Adapted from two AFP stories.

recognise – to know who a person is or what something is จำได้ รู้จัก
enthusiast – a person who is very interested in something and spends a lot of time doing it คนที่กระตือรือร้น
limited – not much or enough; not very great in amount or extent จำกัด
industrial revolution – a major change in how industrial products are designed, produced and distributed, affecting large numbers of industries การปฏิวัติอุตสาหกรรม
simple – easy to understand; not complicated ง่าย,ไม่ยุ่งยาก, ไม่ซับซ้อน
digital – using a system of receiving and sending information as a series of the numbers one and zero, showing that an electronic signal is there or is not there ซึ่งรับส่งข้อมูลด้วยการใช้ตัวเลข
from scratch – from the beginning; without any previous preparation or knowledge
two-dimensional – flat; having no depth; appearing to have only two dimensions สองมิติ
slice – a thin flat piece of something that has been cut off a larger piece  แผ่นตัดบางๆ
gradually – slowly and in small stages or amounts อย่างทีละน้อย
layer – a thin sheet of a substance; a level of material, such as a type of rock or gas, which is different from the material above or below it ชั้น
deposit – to leave a layer/layers of something on the surface of something, especially gradually and over a period of time  ทับถม, กอง
fine – made up of very small pieces ละเอียด
physical object – a thing that can be seen and touched, but is not alive วัตถุ, สิ่งของ
flexible – able to bend easily without breaking ที่ดัดงอได้โดยไม่แตกหัก
solid – having no holes or spaces inside; not hollow; hard or firm; not in the form of a liquid or gas แข็ง, ของแข็ง
block – a solid piece of stone, wood, ice etc with straight sides ท่อนหิน, ท่อนไม้, ก้อนใหญ่, ชิ้นใหญ่
in theory – supposed to be true but which in fact may in fact be wrong ในภาคทฤษฎี
suited – right or appropriate for somebody/something เหมาะสม
specialised – intended for a limited number of users with specific needs; having very specific uses  
customise – to make or change something to suit the needs of the owner ทำตามความต้องการของเจ้าของหรือผู้ซื้อ
screw – a thin pointed piece of metal like a nail with a raised spiral (circular) line (called a thread) ตะปูควง
patient – peaceful and quiet; without anxiety อดทน, อดกลั้น
specific – detailed and exact โดยเฉพาะ, เฉพาะเจาะจง
match – to be the same as or very similar to something else เท่าเทียมกันกับ,  เท่ากันกับ
characteristic – a feature or quality that something/somebody has  ลักษณะเฉพาะ
liberator – someone/something that gives people freedom or that frees people from restrictions or limitations ผู้กู้อิสรภาพ, สิ่งกู้อิสรภาพ
inventor – someone who has designed or created something such as a machine or process that did not exist before นักประดิษฐ์
blow up – to be destroyed by an explosion; to destroy something by an explosion  ระเบิดทำลาย
rifle – a large gun with a long barrel that you hold against your shoulder to fire ปืนยาว, ปืนไรเฟิล
cartridge – a small metal tube containing a bullet and an explosive substance that  is fired from a gun ปลอกกระสุนปืน

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