The 3D Week in Review

With all the talk about technology in the real world versus fantasyland, here’s why a 3D-printing boom is no fantasy.

We’ve been seeing things in 3D all week here at Longitudes.

We’re constantly looking to the future – and not just because of “Back to the Future” Day, though it was fun comparing the cinematic version of Oct. 21, 2015, to real life.

In the movie, Marty McFly travels three decades in time to save his children. We also get a glimpse at what 2015 was supposed to look like.

Sadly, we never experienced “Jaws 19,” as the film predicted. And we’re still waiting on flying cars. And obviously, a time machine…

To many observers, another futuristic concept seems just as unlikely: 3D printing.

To those people, we channel Marty McFly and say: Wait a minute, Doc.

3D Print Industry Week, which began Monday, represents perhaps the best illustration of a technology whose time has come.

In case you missed it, the UPS Store’s Daniel Remba explains that if you can imagine it, you can make it.

Basically, 3D printing is additive manufacturing, taking a material and adding it on top of itself. You ultimately stack these layers one on top of the next, from the bottom up, until you build an object.

Why does this matter?

Now you can make almost anything you want. That’s great for making prototypes, traditionally an expensive and time-consuming process, especially for smaller businesses.

And 3D printing could be a game changer in … outer space?

NASA’s Adam Steltzner sees 3D printing as critical to “building not only ideas but stuff.”

Frequently it is the challenge of exploration — whether it be into a new market, or onto a far-off planet — that pushes us to develop new techniques of building things, he says. I think that there are fantastic opportunities in the realm of additive manufacturing (3D printing) for producing engineering hardware that would otherwise not be manufacturable. It is an exciting time.

The tech industry, not surprisingly, is leading the 3D-printing wave.

UPS’s David Roegge points out that 70 percent of tech companies have at least some experience using 3D printers. The UPS data tells us that in the constant quest to get products to market more quickly, companies of all stripes will leverage 3D printing technology to support faster production development and expedite manufacturing practices.

We’re not alone in this prognostication.

The U.S. Air Force this week said it sees a future in 3D-printed engine parts.

In San Diego, the 3D printer is part of a DIY biotech hot spot for students.

You may not know that 3D printing is a kitchen table issue – literally. Check out the six ways 3D printing could transform Thanksgiving dinner.

Or better yet, just use a 3D printer to make your own DeLorean. Great Scott, indeed. goldbrown2

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Brian Hughes is Managing Editor of Longitudes and co-host of Longitudes Radio.

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