imagine: Instead of sending Grandma a holiday photo of the family for
her fridge, you call up the image on your computer monitor, click
“print,” and your printer produces a three-dimensional plastic model
ready for hanging on the holiday tree. Scenes like that—in which homes
have 3-D printers that build solid objects on demand—are fast
approaching reality, according to the cover story in the current edition
of Chemical & Engineering News, the American Chemical Society’s weekly newsmagazine.
the article, C&EN Associate Editor Lauren K. Wolf explains that 3-D
printers are on the verge of a personal revolution akin to the one that
began in the 1970s and transformed computers from room-size machines to
devices that fit on tables and now in pockets. A similar transformation
is taking place in the world of 3-D printing, where machines are
shrinking and the ability to create detailed objects from a variety of
materials is growing. Engineers are now able to create objects out of a
number of plastics, metals, ceramics and even foods like chocolate,
sometimes with details as fine as a human hair.
technology promises to foster revolutions in venues ranging from
kitchens to hospital operating rooms. Some surgeons, for instance,
envision printing bone grafts or replacement blood vessels with embedded
proteins and cells that will help them fuse naturally. Chefs could
print designer chocolates and gourmet meals with unique textures and
tastes. “In 20 years, many people will have a 3-D printer in their
kitchen for printing designer foods and other products,” the article
quotes one scientist as saying.