Quickfire Science: 3D Printing

09 May 2013
Posted by Elena Teh.

3D printing is a technique that's dramatically reduced the cost of building Pieces of the first 3D printed guncomplex plastic objects in recent years. But this week in the US, the first ever shot was fired from a gun that was built using 3D printing. Here's your quickfire science about the technology from Naked Scientists Elena Teh and Pete Skidmore...

Elena - 3D printing involves building up an object by stacking up many layers of material rather than carving bits away from a solid block.

Pete - It means that you can make one personalised objects quickly and simply.

Elena - To print an object, a 3D image is first created using computer aided design programmes.

Pete - The programme then creates digital slices of this 3D design with each slice around 0.1 mm thick.

Elena - The printer then converts these digital slices into layers of a printed material usually plastic and builds successive layers on top of each other.

Pete - When plastic is used, it is fed into the printer as long thin strings then heated until it melts then can be printed as a liquid, much like using a hot glue gun to make patterns on a surface.

Elena - The making of the gun printed each plastic component individually and then connected them together. The only metal component was a nail used for firing pin.

Pete - Critics are concern about the production of the gun as the digital design will be made freely available online.

Elena -  Some British companies have also warned that the material has not been fully stress tested and could disintegrate from firing.

Peter - Other methods of 3D printing involve using a fine plastic powder which is held together using an ink jet printed glue or using a laser to melt metal powders together to build metallic objects.

Elena - It's not just small objects with 3D printing is becoming useful.  It's a low waste method of building structures and some people are even starting to think about printing houses.

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