On a large scale, MIT researchers built a 50-foot-wide, 12-foot tall igloo in just 13 hours. They've also debuted the first completely 3D-printed rocket engine. On a much smaller level, our own Sean Buckley printed a little d-pad for his Nintendo Switch, while medical researchers have produced a 3D-printed patch that can heal scarred heart tissue. GE Additive is a new business under the larger GE umbrella. It is developing what it calls "the world's largest laser-powered 3D printer" to create parts that fit within one cubic meter cubic of space.
Alyssa Milano, yesterday in CNN, described 3D-printed guns as "downloadable death." In Pennsylvania, rushed hearings blocked a Texas-based company from offering downloadable gun plans in that state. Expect more and more reports on 3D-printable guns in coming days, as 3D-printable object files for guns become available online. Gun control is a deeply charged topic in the US. According to the non-profit Gun Violence Archive, there were 33,609 gun incidents in America from January to July 2018.
For a factory where robots toil around the clock to build a rocket with almost no human labour, the sound of grunts echoing across the parking lot make for a jarring contrast. "That's Keanu Reeves' stunt gym," says Tim Ellis, the chief executive and cofounder of Relativity Space, a startup that wants to combine 3D printing and artificial intelligence to do for the rocket what Henry Ford did for the automobile. As we walk among the robots occupying Relativity's factory, he points out the just-completed upper stage of the company's rocket, which will soon be shipped to Mississippi for its first tests. Across the way, he says, gesturing to the outside world, is a recording studio run by Snoop Dogg. Neither of those A-listers have paid a visit to Relativity's rocket factory, but the presence of these unlikely neighbours seems to underscore the company's main talking point: It can make rockets anywhere.
Add this to the list of feats 3D printers can perform: Fully functioning robots made out of liquid. There are three big problems keeping 3D printing from having the long-promised impact in manufacturing: the unacceptably high failure rate during prototyping (up to 70 percent with many printers, according to one Autodesk exec), the slow speed, and the dearth of versatile materials. Speed and failure rates are improving with each generation of devices, but that last one, the materials, is where the technology will live or die. If printing filaments and powders don't get more diverse, applications will remain severely constrained. Which is why it's pretty exciting that printing with metal is slowly becoming practical.