Welcome to the brave new world of 3D printing — the process of making three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file, allowing us to go above and beyond what can be done with traditional manufacturing.
A design of the object you want to print becomes the virtual blueprint for the printer by using computer-aided design (CAD) software. It translates the concept into code instructions that tell the printer how to build the layers that will form the model. As the layers are built, the material fuses together to create the final product.
The process of 3D printing has roots back in the 1980s. Chuck Hall, an engineer, patented “stereolithography,” which uses ultraviolet lasers to solidify layers of a photoreactive resin.
Since then, 3D printing has come a long way. More materials can be used, and printers have gotten smaller and more affordable, meaning greater numbers of people can print from home.
However, the accessibility of the technology has a troubling flip side. These breakthroughs have opened the door to a new generation of homemade weapons: 3D guns and bullets. And this is something of concern to lawmakers and others.
So while you may not be 3D printing your own medicines or clothes just yet, at least when it comes to this wave of the future you can say, “Now I get it.”