3D printers - our Star Trek replicators? (photos)

3D printers - our Star Trek replicators? (photos)

Summary: From blood vessels and chocolates to cars and planes, 3D printers are showing off their amazing skills.

TOPICS: Hardware, Printers

 |  Image 5 of 15

  • Thumbnail 1
  • Thumbnail 2
  • Thumbnail 3
  • Thumbnail 4
  • Thumbnail 5
  • Thumbnail 6
  • Thumbnail 7
  • Thumbnail 8
  • Thumbnail 9
  • Thumbnail 10
  • Thumbnail 11
  • Thumbnail 12
  • Thumbnail 13
  • Thumbnail 14
  • Thumbnail 15
  • 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

  • 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

  • Meet RepRap - the 3D printer that can print out copies of itself.

    RepRap is a free desktop 3D printer made largely out of parts that can be printed using a RepRap printer. The 3D printer is designed to be a self-replicating machine that allows people to print off RepRaps for their friends and family to use.

    The RepRap can print out more than half of its own parts and most other parts, such as nuts and bolts, can be bought from hardware stores. It costs about £300 to print a RepRap, compared to a commercial 3D printer which would cost about three times as much to buy.

    The RepRap community makes all the designs for printer parts and software to run the printer freely available online.

    Members of the community also share designs for items they have printed out using RepRap - ranging from shoes to plates.

    There are several varieties of RepRap 3D printers. This is the Mendel machine, named after the Austrian friar Gregor Mendel who is credited with kick-starting the field of genetics.

    Photo: The RepRap Project

Topics: Hardware, Printers

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • No yet there!

    These printers can contruct 3D objects but cannot duplicate material properties. They have been common in engineering departments for years. They ARE neat (but expensive) toys!
  • 3d printers (laser sintering) can make stainless steel parts

    we use them in our business. definitely not toys.
  • use solidworks or pro/engineer (now called creo) to design your part

    you can also get a 3d scanner to capture a part - these are quite cheap. You could capture - edit, print of course. (repair that old worn part). can't make everything - you probably wouldn't want to make a bearing surface that needs to last a long time for example. But some of the shapes you can make you can't make any other way. (eg: parts completely contained by other parts).
    And you get color plastic 3d printers.
  • the food printer - very interesting (coke freestyle)

    I guess you could flavour different parts of say chocolate using something like the coke freestyle flavour engine:
  • ModelMaker

    A 3D printer option out of the market that I recently came across is a machine called the ModelMaker. The machine has two target markets, education and geo. I haven't done much research of the company, 2BOT, but this is the basic information on the ModelMaker: www.2bot.com/product-info