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Brett Morgan

Malcolm Campbell
English 1103
March 25, 2015
3D PRINTING: A STEP INTO THE FUTURE
As a kid, everyone saw movies or TV shows that depicted the future in
interesting and innovative ways. One idea common amongst the majority of them was a
device that could print a physical object on command from almost nothing. Believe it or
not, this device essentially exists today and is used practically across the world. 3D
printers are, essentially, a step into the future. A 3D printer works by taking a file of an
object designed on a computer and uses plastics/polymers in order to mold or shape
the object. There are several different processes or methods, but they all come up with
a finished product that seemingly appears out of thin air. These devices can be
considered the key to the future; at this very moment, there are even machines that can
print food.

The possibilities for this technology are endless. The more I think about it,

the more I relate it to science fiction movies and TV shows like The Jetsons. Even
though this technology is already in use, there is much room to grow for the future and
can become much more practically and commonly used.
Whenever you are dealing with something out of science fiction, you really need
to examine the way it works. With these complex ideas and concepts, there can be a lot
of moving parts, which can be a source for confusion. The 3D printing process begins
with a design on a computer. Users can utilize a CAD (computer-aided design) program
in order to create their concept. From there, the design is converted into an STL

(Stereolithography) file, which is read by just about every 3D printer in existence. This
file is inputted into the printer, which then uses the file as a blueprint for the design.
From that point on, several different methods of 3D printing are used. Selective Laser
Sintering (SLS) uses a laser to fuse materials into the desired shape. Fused Deposition
Modeling (FDM) uses a plastic or metal wire that unwinds to form the shape using a
heated nozzle. Stereolithography (SLA) lays polymer layers and molds them into the
desired shape using UV rays. SLA is the most commonly used. The process of 3D
printing is quite complex, so who could have possibly brought the idea to life?
In the early 1980s, a man named Chuck Hull was working at a company that
used UV light to put layers of plastic on tabletop surfaces (in order to make them more
durable) when he had a bright and innovative idea. He imagined that you could use the
UV light technology and mold the plastics into any shape you want? By 1986, he had a
received a patent for Stereolithography. Large companies such as General Motors and
Mercedes-Benz instantly wanted his technology for prototyping and ease of
manufacturing. 30 years later, we can now see 3D printers in a home for just over a
thousand dollars. Hull had predicted that it would take about 3 decades before practical
and widespread use of his invention, and he seems to be right. The father of 3D printing
can be hailed as a visionary; he took a science-fiction concept and turned it into reality.
At this point in time, 3D printing has endless practical uses. Entrepreneurs and
small business owners benefit extremely for the technology. It allows them to make
prototypes quickly and easily. Patrick ONeill, CEO of olloclip, a company that
manufactures small clip-on camera lenses for iPhones and other smartphone devices,
used a 3D printer for his prototype, and he has continued to use them for production up

to this day. He stated that if it werent for 3D printing technology, development for
products would take months, but it can now take less than a week. Jonathan Cobb,
Executive Vice President of Stratasys (a 3D printer manufacturer), stated, it will not
replace the traditional manufacturing process, but serve as another tool for
manufacturers. On the other hand, Peter Weijmarhausen, CEO of Shapeways (a 3D
printing marketplace), and Jan Baum, Executive Director of 3D Maryland (an
organization designed to increase engagement between businesses and the 3D printing
process) felt the technology to be more impactful than Cobb. These entrepreneurs and
business executives clearly show that 3D printing is an incredible tool for innovation.
3D printing is an incredible concept; to be able to create an object from one raw
material almost instantly. However, when you start to bring up not only printing objects
or prototypes, but also food, the concept becomes almost inconceivable. The Foodini
can do just that; it uses the same technology as a 3D printer, however, instead of using
a plastic/polymer, the device uses edible ingredients. It uses fresh ingredients to create
complicated dishes. Even though the general focus of the product is to make
preparation of certain fresh meals quicker, the product cant just create a burger out of
thin air. The technology may be limited, but the fact that it can shape a meal or dish
from raw materials is promising. This type of technology is set to hit the market in the
second half of 2015. The Foodini is certainly a step into the future. Even though it cant
create a burger or a slice of pizza from nothing, it can definitely serve as a starting point
and an inspiration for this type of technology. Applications of 3D printing like this make
the future seem incredible.

As 3D printing has grown more and more popular and widespread, people have
found ways to take advantage of the technology. The biggest instance is somewhat of a
crisis. People have found out that if you have the right details and schematics on a CAD
file, you can create a gun from your 3D printer. Granted, the majority of these weapons
can only fire one time (plastic isnt the best at containing a gunshot blast), but once is all
it takes for a deadly occurrence. There are now databases of weapon blueprint files.
From AK-47s to Glock pistols, there are files out there than can effectively print these
weapons from a 3D printer. The danger is quite obvious; how can governing bodies
impose gun laws if they cant control where the guns come from? Normally, they would
just ban the weapons from being sold, but the Internet is a deep, dark place with no
limitations. People may not be able to buy an M16 at their local gun store, but if they
really want it, they can simply get the blueprint CAD file from a 3D printed gun database
and print each part. However, it was not originally a real concern for governments
because these weapons were not fully functioning. By only being capable of firing one
round, these guns were effectively rendered useless at least until machinist Michael
Crumling of Pennsylvania came up with his design. He has created a round tailored
specifically for 3D printed weapons. These round havent been commercially
manufactured yet, but they do offer an innovative concept; by turning the round into a
glorified barrel and thickening the steel, the explosion of the gunpowder can be
contained enough to maintain the frame of a 3D printed weapon. Until this type of round
is manufactured on a large scale, it is not much of a concern for firearm enforcement
yet. However, once it hits the market, governments should be concerned. This will allow
for people who have 3D printed weapons to actually mobilize them.

3D printing is, undoubtedly, a step into the future. This technology pushes the
envelope for what humans can achieve. Because of one mans idea in the 1980s, we
can now create any object from thin air (and a little bit of plastic). Even though there are
many processes within the 3D printing realm, they all can essentially turn a design into
something you can hold in your hands. This technology has even inspired Foodini, a
device that can 3D print food. As improbable as it sounds, the Foodini is practical and
will hit the consumer market by the end of 2015. 3D printing can provide endless
opportunities for our society, but some arent always positive. 3D printed firearms will
serve as a major conflict going forward, but in general, 3D printing is an incredible
technology. When you truly step back and look at the 3D printer, you can see the future
of technology as a whole.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Bilton, Nick. "The Rise of 3-D Printed Guns." The New York Times. The New York
Times, 13 Aug. 2014. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.
Committee on Small Business, United States House of Representatives. The Rise of
3D Printing: Opportunities for Entrepreneurs. Hearing Before the Committee on
Small Business, United States House of Representatives, One Hundred
Thirteenth Congress, Second Session, 12 Mar. 2014. Web. Feb 2014.
Gibson, Ian, David Rosen, and Brent Stucker. Additive Manufacturing Technologies: 3d
Printing, Rapid Prototyping, and Direct Digital Manufacturing. New York:
Springer, 2015. Print.
Hickey, Shane. "Chuck Hull: The Father of 3D Printing Who Shaped Technology." The
Guardian. Guardian News, 22 June 2014. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.
"What Is 3D Printing?" 3D Printing. 3D Printing.com, 2015. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.
Prisco, Jacopo. "'Foodini' Machine Lets You Print Edible Burgers, Pizza - CNN.com."
CNN. Cable News Network, 31 Dec. 2014. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.