3D printing comes of age

It may well be that a technology has reached mainstream acceptance when the media starts writing scare stories and politicians demand that something must be done.

Should that be the case, then 3D printing has come of age with the story of the first gun being fabricated and demands that legislation be passed preventing people manufacturing their own firearms.

The story does raise a range of issues about community safety that 3D printing is going to present. When anybody can design and manufacture a piece of equipment, how can we be sure it is safe – or legal – to use?

We’re going to be facing these issues very soon as retail 3D printers have started appearing.

At $1299, the Cube 3D printer isn’t quite affordable for most households or offices, but we can expect prices to fall as more devices come onto the market.

At the more advanced end of the 3D printing market, The University of Wollongong’s Centre for Electromaterials Science has opened a research unit at Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Hospital to create tissue material with biological 3D printers, with the scientists beginning animal trials to reproduce skin, cartilage, arteries and heart valves.

So at one end of the spectrum we have hackers making plastic guns that freak politicians and scaremongering journalists out, while at the other there are scientists pushing the barriers of medical science.

We live in interesting times – and 3D printing is making things even more exciting.

Paul Wallbank‘s latest book, eBu$iness, Seven Steps to Online Success, shows how business can get online quickly and cost effectively using web 2.0, cloud computing, social media and e-commerce tools.

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