Quickfire Science: 3D Printing
3D printing is a technique that's dramatically reduced the cost of building complex 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.