Photos: Print-at-home chocolate to robot snakes - 10 weirdest items made by 3D printers

Photos: Print-at-home chocolate to robot snakes - 10 weirdest items made by 3D printers

Summary: Next stop, Star Trek's replicator...

TOPICS: Hardware

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  • 3D printed plane


    Nervous fliers might baulk at the idea of taking a trip on a printed plane but there's no faulting the aerodynamics of this aircraft.

    The electric-powered aircraft has a two-metre wingspan and a top speed of nearly 100mph but is almost silent in cruise mode.

    The entire plane was printed out using a nylon laser sintering machine that builds up objects layer by layer and then fuses them together using a laser. The plane was printed in separate parts and then snapped together.

    The Southampton University team that made the plane says the 3D printing approach allows an aircraft to be developed from concept to first flight in days. In comparison, manufacturing a plane using conventional materials and manufacturing techniques, such as composites, would normally take months and require expensive tools.

    The plane's elliptical wind shape is modelled on that of the famous World War II plane the Spitfire, according to professor Andy Keane of Southampton University, who said the laser sintering process removed the complexity and cost of manufacturing an elliptical wing using traditional methods.

    Photo: University of Southampton

  • 3D printed flute


    It might not be appearing in an orchestra any time soon, but this 3D-printed flute can play any tune you care to try out.

    The fully functioning instrument was printed by students in MIT's Media Lab. The flute is made up of three parts that took almost 15 hours to print out using an Objet Connex500 3D printer.

    The 3D flute is made with three different materials: one for the body, another for the mouthpiece and a third for the seals in the keys. The only part of the flute that wasn't printed were the springs for the keys.

    Photo: amitzoran/YouTube

  • 3D printed bike


    This bike may lack the quintessential British charm of a Raleigh Chopper but it can be created from nothing more than powder.

    The Airbike, made by aerospace company EADS, is made out of high-strength nylon powder and built using a process called additive-layer manufacturing.

    To make the bike, a computer-controlled machine sprinkles successive layers of nylon powder on top of each other and then fuses them together using a laser in order to create a solid object. Each layer is printed out in a pattern that matches the design of a 3D computer model of the bike.

    It might not look too comfy, but the bike features auxetic design that allows it to flex to provide some cushioning.

    Photo: EADS

Topic: Hardware


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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