3D printing has changed the game for creating one-off products. Many believe the real revolution will come when designers start to rethink the shapes of objects.
Removing the limitations of the manufacturing process means that whatever can be designed on a computer can be turned into an object, as these examples show.
1 ‘Burn mask’, a customised mask for managing treatment of facial scars, was manufactured by Belgian company Materialise, based in Leuven, which claims to be Europe’s biggest company operating in the 3D printing sector.
2 Dan Yeffetlamp’s ‘Hidd’ vase is just one response to the challenge that Materialise issued to some of the world’s top designers to use its technology in innovative ways. It’s part of an award-winning line of objects on sale at the company’s Brussels store, claimed to be the world’s first dedicated to 3D printed design
3 Designers Naim Josefi and Souzan Youssouf created these bizarre but wearable shoes, printed by Materialise in polyamide, for a collection displayed at the Stockholm Fashion Show.
4 A 3D model helped Belgian anaplastologist Jan De Cubber deal with the complex case of a patient whose recurring bouts of cancer had forced doctors to remove an area of his face including his right eye, cheek bone and upper jaw. Because bone as well as soft tissue was missing, engineers at Materialise had to mirror the healthy side of the patient’s face and digitally design a replacement supporting structure that could be 3D printed in titanium and held in place with magnetic implants.
5 3D printers, which use high-powered lasers to fuse particles of plastic layer by layer, are becoming more widely available. This model was on display during the Digital Life Design Conference held in Munich earlier this year and attended by business and social leaders, opinion formers and investors.
6 China’s first 3D photo printing station opened for business in Xian, Shaanxi province recently. The models are made in two steps, with a 15 minute scanning section of the customer’s whole body followed by two to three hours of printing. Models can be created in a range of materials including plastic, rubber and wax, and a choice of colours. The station also prints customised mobile phone shells and movable figures.
7 New York-based MakerBot’s Replicator 2 desktop 3D printer, pictured in action at this year’s CeBit computer fair in Hanover, is aimed at “anyone who loves to make things”. The company’s Manhattan store offers demonstrations of equipment and a range of 3D printed objects, while its thingiverse.com website has models for more than 28,000 objects that can be downloaded.