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...

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TOPICS: Hardware
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  • 3d printed concrete

    Concrete

    In the future, entire buildings could be constructed out of materials built by 3D printers.

    Students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab have developed a way of printing out concrete, a building material that has been used since the days of the Roman Empire.

    Printing concrete has several advantages over the traditional production methods. 3D printers can create outlandish, organic-looking shapes that would be impossible using moulds. Printers can also finely control the structure of the concrete to create a material that is both lighter and stronger than the traditionally made alternatives.

    MIT student Steven Keating said the fine control offered by 3D printing could one day allow man-made construction materials to mimic the strongest materials found in nature. He gave the example of the trunk of a palm tree, which is composed of a dense exterior and a light spongy interior, giving it a higher strength-to-weight ratio than any artificial material.

    Photo: Steven Keating, Timothy Cooke and John Fernández

  • 3D printed chocolate

    Chocolate

    Forget the fridge. People hunting for a snack in the future will fire up the 3D printer.

    Printers have already been used to print a range of foods - including scallops, turkey and now chocolate.

    Researchers at the University of Exeter used 3D printing technology to create a range of chocolate shapes.

    The research team initially found chocolate difficult to work with as it requires precise heating and cooling cycles that had to be integrated with flow rates for the 3D printing process.

    Photo: David Martin/EPSRC

  • 3D printed gazebo

    Gazebo

    If printing out a building one block at a time doesn't take your fancy, then how about printing an entire structure in one go?

    This two-metre-tall gazebo was printed inside a six-by-six-metre machine that was designed by Italian firm D-Shape to print out small buildings.

    The printer builds structures by depositing a layer of sand, or other granular material, and then squirting out a layer of bonding agent on top of it. Each layer is printed out in a pattern that matches the design of a 3D computer model of the building.

    The machine builds structures in 5-10mm layers, with each layer taking about 24 hours to solidify before the next layer is added.

    D-Shape founder Enrico Dini believes the technology used to print the gazebo could be built upon to print out large buildings at low cost using sustainable materials.

    The company is building an 8.5-metre version of the gazebo structure to be sited in Pisa, Italy.

    Photo: D-Shape

Topic: Hardware

About

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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