2011 was a breakout year for 3D printing. So many advancements, announcements and cool innovations! Here are a few of our favorites!
Engineers from the University of Southhampton in the UK designed and printed this electric-powered airplane, capable of traveling at 100 MPH, in just 1 week. They used laser sintering, a kind of 3D printing that uses lasers to fuse plastic powder together into a 3-dimensional object. This rapid prototyping approach let them take the plane from concept to flight in a fraction of the time and cost of traditional manufacturing. The plane performed perfectly on its 10-minute maiden flight over a field not far from Stonehenge.
Quite possibly the yummiest tech innovation of 2011: University of Exeter scientists developed a 3D printer that extrudes not plastic or metal, but CHOCOLATE to create custom, personalized forms that are as delicious as they are unique. Robots want, but we figure we’re in line behind the Easter Bunny.
Can 3D printers save lives? YES: Scientists at Fraunhofer Institute in Germany are using 3D printing to problem-solve one of the trickiest elements of organ transplant. With a combination of biochemistry and 3D laser printing, they’ve successfully created synthetic capillaries – the tiny, complex blood vessels required to keep transplant tissue alive. The cool factor here is accentuated by Star Trek-like language including: “multi-photon polymerization” and “elastic organic biomaterials.” Oooooo…
The “Stradivarius” violin being played in this video isn’t centuries old, it isn’t even made of wood – it was created on a 3D printer! Manufactured by EOS with laser sintering, this fully functional violin begs the question could all high school instruments be created with the touch of a button on a 3D printer? As for the sound, maybe a concert violinist could tell the difference between the tone of this instrument and its original, but we think it sounds beautiful…like the future.
The super-green Urbee hybrid is the world’s first 3D printed car. Designed to be one of the most environmentally-friendly automobiles possible, it gets 200 MPG and can reach speeds of 70 MPH. But best of all, if you get a fender bender, you just reprint the busted piece!
Internet browsers are getting more and more powerful, and now, thanks to HTML5 and WebGL, you can have a console game-like experience in the same Chrome or Firefox browser you use to search the internet. My Robot Nation leveraged that power to launch the first fun and easy 3D online creation platform that allows everyone everywhere to create their own unique design in real-time 3D, and then have it made real with full color Z Corporation 3D printing and sent to their door. You don’t need to have mastered a CAD program or even own a 3D printer – you just drag and drop, create your robot, then a few days later you’re holding your creation in your hand. Welcome to the future – you just became your own manufacturer.
Makerbot’s artist-in-residence Miles Lightwood, heads up “Project Shellter” which helps out homeless hermit crabs by 3D printing shells for them. Hermit crabs don’t create their shells, they scavenge them, and shells are in short supply for pet crabs. But Project Shellter is there to help! The designs for the shells are being crowdsourced on Thingiverse. But don’t worry, the plastic shells won’t be strewn about the sea – they’re not for wild critters, just the domesticated kind, hopefully reducing harvesting of real shells from marine habitats.
In an amazing validation of 3D printing’s design potential, London’s illustrious Victoria & Albert Museum, “the world’s greatest museum of art and design,” featured a 3D printed fashion display as part of the 2011 London Design Festival. The display, curated by renown New York fashion entrepreneur Murray Moss was entitled Industrial Revolution 2.0, and featured a stunning collection of art and fashion pieces, created with 3D printing. A vision of what’s possible when art and technology marry…
“Making something out of nothing using nothing.” That was essentially what Royal College of Art design student Markus Kayser had in mind when he took his Solar Sinter to the Siwa Oasis in Egypt. In the middle of the desert there’s a lot of sand and a lot of sun – and in this case, a lot of innovation. Kayser used his completely solar-powered sinter to focus the rays of the sun into the desert sand in patterns, fusing it into beautiful 3D printed glass sculptures. The sand provides unlimited material and the sun provides unlimited power, making the desert an endless canvas for Kayser’s 3D printed art.
And wrapping up 2011 were two instances of the most personal kind of personal manufacturing – proposals of marriage through 3d printing! My Robot Nation citizen Jennifer R created a custom robot with the words “WILL YOU MARRY ME” and put him under the tree by way of proposal to her boyfriend Tom D. As you can see by the photo to the right – he said yes!
Similarly happy news for Objet engineer Idan Esher, who created this 3D printed engagement ring to propose to his girlfriend Tamar. The answer there was also “Yes!”, as you can see by the photo of the happy couple below.
Creativity really is endless. We saw 3D printing bringing so many amazing ideas to life in 2011. We can’t wait to see what you make real in 2012.