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3D printers: What can you print?

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From guns to art to clothes, jewellery and replacement body parts or even cars, experts on what will 3D printers be able to copy. 

Designer Susana Soares looks at a 3D printer during a photocall for Insects au Gratin exhibition at The Wellcome Collection in London on April 23, 2013 (AFP/File, Adrian Dennis)


3D printing 'will change the world'

By Helen Rowe (AFP) – Nov 16, 2013  

Visitors look at a 3D printer printing an object, during "Inside 3D Printing" conference and exhibition in New York, April 22, 2013 (AFP/File, Emmanuel Dunand)

Paris - From replacement kidneys to guns, cars, prosthetics and works of art, 3D printing is predicted to transform our lives in the coming decades as dramatically as the Internet did before it.

"I have no doubt it is going to change the world," researcher James Craddock told AFP at the two-day 3D Printshow in Paris which wraps up later on Saturday.

A member of the 3D Printing Research Group (3DPRG) at the UK's Nottingham University, Craddock nevertheless predicted that use of 3D printing would be limited.

"You wouldn't want to make a cup from a 3D printer because it would probably fall apart, leak or poison you, but you would use it for high-value, beautiful items or replacement parts," he said.

"The real revolutionary factor is industrial use," he added.

Here is a selection of the potential future uses of 3D printing:

- Arms

An "Urbee", an ecologic vehicle, is displayed during the "3D Print Show" exhibition in Paris on November 15, 2013 (AFP, Joel Saget)

This is one of the more eye-catching prospects and has attracted a lot of publicity.

Californian engineering company Solid Concepts said earlier this month it had produced a metal replica of a classic 1911 shotgun.

US entrepreneur and inventor Brook Drumm, however, warned that the process of printing a gun would be slow, expensive and potentially dangerous, requiring lasers at high temperatures, lots of power and hazardous materials.

Drumm set up his firm Printrbot to produce printers costing from $400 that print plastic items.

Metal printers can cost around $250,000 (185,000 euros) and "the particulates are so fine that your skin could absorb them through the pores. The materials are not safe", he said.

A model shows an outfit designed by Catherine Andreozzi during the "3D Print Show" exhibition in Paris on November 15, 2013 (AFP, Joel Saget)

The gun itself -- unless made out of metal -- would also be unreliable.

"There's a lot of moving parts in a gun and they need to be precise," he said, adding that he tried to print a plastic gun but gave up because it took so long.

"Time-wise, if I was going to print a plastic gun and you were going to go and buy a metal one, even if it took you two weeks to get approval I probably still wouldn't have it working first," he said.

- Art

Fancy a replica of a Viking helmet or one of the Louvre's most famous sculptures on the mantelpiece?

American Cosmo Wenman has used thousands of photographs taken in some of the world's biggest museums to produce exact plastic copies.

Works he has produced include the ancient Greek statue Venus de Milo which is in the Louvre.

"If you look at the small print at museums in terms of taking photographs, they say that you cannot put them to commercial use," he said.

"But from a practical point of view that is not enforceable and for antiquities there is no intellectual property issue," he said.

- Cars

Canadian Jim Kor's 3D Urbee car is made out of plastic and stainless steel.

The futuristic-looking three-wheeler is electric but uses petrol at higher speeds.

Objects printed in 3D are displayed in the "3D Print Show" exhibition in Paris on November 15, 2013 (AFP, joel Saget)

Production designer Kor says if a car company mass produced the vehicle it would be possible to keep the price down to around $16,000 (12,000 euros).

"We want it to be the Volkswagen Beetle for the next century, low cost and long-lasting too," he said.

"It should last 30-plus years. Our goal is that it should be 100 percent recyclable."

- Jewellery

Jewellery can be made to ensure that each piece is slightly different, known as "mass customisation".

3D printing can also make the production process far less expensive and time consuming.

Dutch jewellery designer Yvonne van Zummeren produces a range of jewellery made out of lightweight nylon polyamide.

"All my designs are based on works of art," she said holding a bracelet that uses a Matisse motif.

"It enables me to be a jewellery designer much more easily. Otherwise I would have needed a factory in China and a minimum order of 20,000," she added.

"When you are producing something for the first time it means you can adapt and try again very easily until you get the result you want."

- Prosthetics

Prosthetics can be custom made to provide the perfect match.

Electronics could be built in allowing the recipient accurate control of the limb.

"It would all be printed out at the same time," said 3DPRG's Craddock.

- Replacement parts

One-off parts are needed by everyone from NASA to the person who loses an unusual jacket button.

Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. 


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accurate: correct, exact and without any mistakes - ถูกต้อง, แม่นยำ

ancient: very old - ที่เก่าแก่ ที่โบราณ

antiquities: very old ancient things from the past -

approval: official permission - การอนุมัต

arms: guns, knives, and other things that can injure or kill people or animals - อาวุธ

attract: to cause someone to be interested in something - ดึงดูดความสนใจ

built-in: made as part of a device or thing, not a separate part; integrated -

century: a period of one hundred years - ศตวรรษ

classic: with all the features you would expect to find; very typical - เป็นแบบอย่าง

commercial: for business purposes - เกี่ยวกับการค้า

conference: a large official meeting, usually lasting for a few days, at which people with the same work or interests come together to discuss their views - การประชุมร่วม

custom-made: designed and made for a particular person - ซึ่งสร้างตามคำสั่งเฉพาะของลูกค้าคนเดียว

customization: designed and made for a particular person - ซึ่งสร้างตามคำสั่งเฉพาะของลูกค้าคนเดียว

dangerous: likely to injure or harm somebody, or to damage or destroy something - อันตราย

decades: periods of ten years - เป็นสิบๆปี

dramatically: in a big way - อย่างใหญ่หลวง

ecological: of the system of relationships between the air, land, water, animals, plants, etc., usually of a particular area - เกี่ยวกับความสัมพันธ์ระหว่างสิ่งมีชีวิตในระบบนิเวศน์

enforce : to make sure laws are obeyed - บังคับให้ใช้, บังคับให้ทำ, ใช้กำลังบังคับให้ปฏิบัติตาม

entrepreneur: someone who starts their own business, especially when this involves risks - นักลงทุนทางการเงิน

exact: done, made, or described in a very thorough way, with all the details correct - ถูกต้องแม่นยำ

exhibition: a public show where art or other interesting things are put so that people can go and look at them - นิทรรศการ งานแสดง

factor: a fact or situation which influences the result of something - ปัจจัย

fall apart: to be in very bad condition so that parts are breaking off - แตกเป็นชิ้นๆ, แตก

fancy: to like something nice or to want to get it -

firm: a business or company - บริษัท

futuristic: strange and very modern, or intended or seeming to come from some imagined time in the future - นำสมัย

hazardous: dangerous, especially to people’s health or safety - ที่เป็นอันตราย

helmet: a strong hard hat that covers and protects the head - หมวกกันน็อก

industrial: relating to industry - เกี่ยวกับอุตสาหกรรม

intellectual property: something that someone has created or invented and that no one else is legally allowed to make, copy, or sell - ทรัพย์สินทางปัญญา

inventor: someone who has designed or created something such as a machine or process that did not exist before - นักประดิษฐ์

issue: a problem that needs to be considered - ประเด็น

item: a single article or object - รายการ, รายการสิ่งของ

jewellery: objects such as rings and necklaces that people wear as decoration - เพชรพลอย,อัญมณี

kidney: one of the two organs in your body that clean your blood and remove waste - ไต

lasting: continuing to exist or have an effect for a long time - ที่กินเวลานาน

leak: (of a liquid or gas) flowing out of a hole or crack - การรั่วไหล

limb: an arm or a leg - แขนหรือขา

limited: not much or enough; not very great in amount or extent - จำกัด

mantelpiece: the ledge or area above the fireplace -

mass produced: made in large amounts in a factory -

match: a person or thing that combines well with somebody/something else - คู่ที่เหมาะ (กับ), คู่รักหวานชื่น

material: a substance that things can be made from - วัตถุ

metal: a type of solid mineral substance that is usually hard and shiny and that heat and electricity can travel through, for example tin, iron and gold - โลหะ

model: a person who wears clothes to show them to customers - นางแบบ

museum: a building where objects of historical, scientific or artistic interest are kept - พิพิธภัณฑ์

outfit: a set of clothes that are worn together - เครื่องแต่งกาย

perfect: to make something perfect or as good as you can - ทำให้สมบูรณ์

petroleum: oil coming from the ground - น้ำมันปิโตรเลียม, น้ำมันดิบ, น้ำมันจากดิน

poison: a substance that causes death or harm if it is swallowed or absorbed into the body - ยาพิษ

poison: to put poison in or on something - วางยาพิษ

potential: possible in the future - ที่อาจเป็นไปได้

potentially: possibly - เป็นไปได้

power: energy from electricity - พลังงาน, พลังงานกล,พลัง, กำลัง, แรง

practical: suitable for the situation in which something is used - ที่ขึ้นอยู่กับความเป็นจริง

precise: exact and accurate - แน่นอน, ถูกต้อง, เที่ยงตรง

predict: to say that an event or action will happen in the future, especially as a result of knowledge or experience - คาดการณ์ว่า พยากรณ์จากสถิติว่า

process: a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result - แนวทางปฏิบัติ, กระบวน, วิธีการ

production process: the series of actions taken to produce a product - ขั้นตอนการผลิต

prospects: the possibility that things will happen, especially something good - ความเป็นไปได้

prosthetics: replacement body parts made by humans - กายอุปกรณ์, -สิ่งใส่เทียม๒. -จัดใส่สิ่งใส่เทียม

publicity: attention in magazines, newspapers, or television - การเผยแพร่

recipient: someone who receives something - ผู้ได้รับ

recyclable: the parts and materials can be used again to make new things after the thing is used and thrown away -

replacement: someone or something that takes the place of another - ผู้การทำหน้าที่แทน, การทำหน้าที่แทน

replacement: someone who takes the place of another - ผู้การทำหน้าที่แทน, ตัวสำรอง

replica: an accurate copy of something - งานศิลปะที่จำลองจากของจริง, ของจำลอง

researcher: a person who carriers out a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it - นักวิจัย

revolutionary: involving a great or complete change -

sculpture: a solid object that someone makes as a work of art by shaping a substance such as stone, metal, wood or sand - รูปปั้น

selection: a number of people or things that have been chosen from a larger group - ผู้ที่ได้รับการคัดเลือก, สิ่งที่ถูกเลือก

stainless steel: steel that has been treated to stop rust forming on its surface, used for making knives, tools, and other things - เหล็กที่ไม่เป็นสนิม

statue: a human or animal image that is made of stone, wood, metal, etc. - รูปปั้น

temperature: a measurement of how hot or how cold a place or object is - อุณหภูมิ

terms: the conditions in a contract or in rules and regulations -

the small print: the details in rules and regulations -

time-consuming: taking a lot of time to do or finish - ที่สิ้นเปลืองเวลามาก, ที่กินเวลา

transform: to change, especially in a big way - เปลี่ยน, เปลี่ยนสภาพ

unreliable: not able to work without problems - ไม่มั่นคง

value: how much something is worth in money or other goods for which it can be exchanged - มูลค่า

vehicle: a machine that you travel in or on, especially one with an engine that travels on roads, e.g., a car, bus, van, truck, etc. - ยานพาหนะ

wise: related to -

wrap up: to finish - ทำให้เสร็จสิ้น

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