Princeton University scientists recently used 3-D printing with human cell cultures to create a working, bionic human ear.
The technology is even on President Barack Obama’s radar.
During his February State of the Union speech, the president lauded the economic benefits of 3-D printing, saying it “has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.”
The Robert C. Byrd Institute’s Spears talked about such potential.
“The United States is finding out this technology can help restore the manufacturing base,” Spears said.
“We’re at a great advantage having this kind of technology available.”
Figgatt said the technology is especially beneficial for inventors or companies that want to develop prototypes.
He said companies in the past have spent months and thousands of dollars drafting designs, creating molds and testing a part.
With 3-D printing, developers can go from the drawing board to a functional model within days at about a tenth of the cost.
NG Innovations of Cross Lanes recently used the 3-D printer at RCBI to manufacture a prototype.
The research and development company helps develop processes and equipment to clean water for the oil, mining and natural gas industries.
Company field operations manager J.R. Maddox brought some sketches to Figgatt, and after making a few modifications on the computer, they used the printer to make a prototype.
“They were able to print us one out, and it works very, very well,” Mattox said. “It was able to prove that this scale model would be able to work in the application we were going to use it in.”
Spears said a 3-D model can help companies as they give presentations to banks in an attempt to secure capital for a project.
“When you have that prototype in hand, it helps a lot better than something you’ve drawn up on the back of a napkin,” Spears said.
The printers also can be used to build replicas of items through the aid of a laser scanner.
The laser will scan the item and produce a 3-D digital image, which designers can them modify in the computer.
Figgatt said the technology is also starting to be used to create trinkets, such as desktop business card holders and cellphone cases, that can be customized with a company or person’s name.<< previous 1 2