Hello all you lovely people.
Today I want to talk about a technology that is being used in many areas, amongst them my favourites of medical science and fashion. I was contacted by Shapeways, which is a 3D printing service based in New York to write about the technology, and I think it is a very innovative and cool thing.
The technology of 3D printing, also known as Additive Manufacturing are various processes used to create three dimensional objects. Additive Manufacturing refers to the method of which the three dimensional object is created, by adding layer after layer of material until you have your object, whatever it may be. The process however starts by creating a design in a 3D modelling software. At Shapeways anyone can upload designs, and you don't even need to have any experience with 3D modelling. I'm quite intrigued myself and only need some inspiration to come up with a design to try it out. After the file is created with the 3D design, the Additive Manufacturing Machine (a 3D printer) reads the file and produce layer after layer of material to produce the 3D object. A whole range of different materials can be used, among them plastics, metals and ceramics.
This technology can be used in many different areas and is very popular in design and architecture. For someone like me who is working in medical science I can see this technology being used for numerous different things in our scientific discipline. In fact 3D printing has already been used to create implants for patients, everything from hips to jaws have been produced as well as full on prosthetics. How cool is that!
Another area where 3D printing is becoming very big is in fashion and style. Everything from accessories (many of which I want) to a completely 3D printed dress now exist to my excitement. The designer duo Nervous System has design a fully movable dress that has been printed by Shapeways. You might wonder how it is even possible to create a dress out of plastics, metals and ceramics, I sure wondered. But look at this dress! It is completely functioning and it moves like any beautiful cloth would.
The design is super interesting, because they've created interlocking parts which results in a complex structure of moveable, kinematic wearables. Basically they've used little moveable pieces that together form something like a fabric. And what is even more amazing is that a dress is "too big" to be able to create in a 3D printer, but with the help of a physics simulation their moveable design could be folded into a small enough object that could be printed by the 3D printer. When it is then taken out of the machine the folded piece of fabric can be unfolded into a dress. This technique enables the creation of new "fabrics" that can have all sorts of different properties depending on how they are designed, such things like the stretch, flexibility, warmth and colours of the new fabrics can be altered and mixed.
The technique may also be used to create super custom-fit clothing and accessories by body data. It truly sounds like something out of science fiction. But the dress is real and located at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. If you want to see the dress actually worn and moving look at this amazing video that explains a little more in detail how the dress was created:
Shapeways want to make 3D printing accessible to everyone, which I think is a very honourable mission, as it allows people like you and me to create incredible things, making ideas into reality, only hindered by our imagination. Shapeways is a marketplace where designers can upload and sell their 3D designs, for example this lovely DNA pendant caught my eye immediately (being the science nerd that I am and working with DNA), but just thinking about how it was made makes it that much cooler.
In Shapeways I have definitely found a place where I will shop for myself (I really want that DNA pendant) and friends, and just being able to say that a gift has been 3D printed makes my mind boggle with excitement. The fiction of it all is no more - it is true and real science that is being used to create the coolest accessories and designs.