Advantage and disadvantage of 3D printing technology (working title don't know how to change it)
3D printing, a term only recently entering mainstream media, has already stir up major debates about its validity and its possible positive and negative impacts in the future. I believe that 3D printing technologies is going to have a firm hold in our daily lives and the positive benefits is going to outweigh the negatives.
3D printing is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. It covers many different technologies that achieve similar effects, the major differences being the size of production and end product, affordability and product strength. The first 3D printing technology invented by Charles Hull was called stereolithography. The system consists of an Ultra-Violet Laser, a vat of photo-curable liquid resin, and a controlling system. A platform is lowered into the resin, such that the surface of the platform is a layer-thickness below the surface of the resin. The laser beam then traces the boundaries and fills in a two-dimensional cross section of the model, solidifying the resin wherever it touches. Once a layer is completed, the platform descends a layer thickness, resin flows over the first layer, and the next layer is built. This process continues until the model is completed.The system consists of an Ultra-Violet Laser, a vat of photo-curable liquid resin, and a controlling system. A platform is lowered into the resin, such that the surface of the platform is a layer-thickness below the surface of the resin. The laser beam then traces the boundaries and fills in a two-dimensional cross section of the model, solidifying the resin wherever it touches. Once a layer is completed, the platform descends a layer thickness, resin flows over the first layer, and the next layer is built. This process continues until the model is completed.There is also process that uses extrusion tube that flows out melting plastics or other materials that will take shape in 3D object and a process where glue or laser fuse together metal in a similar process to the stereolithography where by the plastic is replace by metal grinds.
If this technology could make almost anything, could it make a gun? More than one person have asked this question, people have designed guns and gun parts for 3D printing purposes. There are technical limitations for creating a complete gun out of 3D printing materials that is sustainable for firearms. However Cody R Wilson, a second year law student from The University of Texas School of Law seeks to change those facts. He created an organization called Defense Distributed for the purpose of Wiki Weapon project, which aims at designing a firearm that can be downloaded from the internet and printed with a 3D printer. On May 5th 2013, he achieves this goal. With the design of Liberator, a single shot pistol from the World War II era, he was able to fire a single round of bullet with a plastic gun with parts made from a 3D printer. Congressman Steve Israel, an activist for gun controls and against 3D printed weapons, issue a statement that he will propose a ban on all 3D printed weapons components and weapons the day after the successful test fire. Israel's proposal will be one additional clause in the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 which prohibits the manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possession, transfer or receiving of any firearm that is not detectable by walk-through metal detectors, a law that was dodge by this test with the use of an simple nail as firing ping. However it is impossible to ban a technology, a Liberator was design with mass production and simple use in mind, and mass commercialized 3D printer is already on sale in Staples for merely 1299.99 dollars, so even if 3D printed weapons are ban in every corner of the globe there would be someone that can print a operating from scratch. 3D printing weapons will be the next major change in global legal systems, will it cause a global crisis leading into the banning to 3D printing? It is not a far reaching possibilities as many countries already have strict gun regulations due to many different factors, if anyone can build a gun in the privacy of their own home how could those governments or any governments regulate their citizens.
3D printing firearms might be the worst case scenario for the future of 3D printing, but there is no technology advancements without side effects, the industrial revolution destroyed cultures and environments around the world, but the industry-based economy brought about a better, stronger, and faster growing economy, it also creates more jobs that led to technological developments, better standards of housing, food, education, etc. 3D printing technology also brings benefits that outweighs its disadvantage, and I believe that these benefits makes the continuing development of 3D printing technology worthwhile.
A team of researchers at the University of Glasgow, UK is at the forefront of 3D printing drugs. This team, led by Dr. Lee Cronin, has already successfully used a digital blueprint and a 3D printer costing only $2000 to produce ibuprofen. Their design's most immediate use is a new way for chemists to discover chemical compounds, but there are more uses for this technology, using words of Cronin this is "a way of democratizing chemistry, bringing chemistry to the masses." In the article published by NewScientist and written by Katharine Sanderson, Cronin went on to discuss how the printing apparatus produce the drugs, the potential benefits and also the potential harms of it. Currently their apparatus lacks means to produce advanced drugs that require more complex chemical reactions. Mankind would greatly benefits from full implementation of this technology. In its current form, chemists will be able to discover and create new compounds. In the not so distant future, perhaps even just a few years with the helps of aid organizations, underdeveloped countries could print their own drugs with substances produced locally.
NASA is also developing its own 3D printing technology called Electron Beam Freeform Fabrication, it allows metal components to be 3D printed in space. This allows space missions to be longer and safer, if a component fail, or component they already have doesn't do the job they could easily printed out the component and replace it. NASA is also developing 3D printing technology uses their to build bases on lunar grounds using just microwaves heating up lunar dust to just below the point of melting, and use these dusts to build the base. If these two technologies success in field tests, it would allows human to explore much further and establish bases in every place human can set their feet on.
These things maybe too far away from your home. How about everyday objects? When 3D printers are fully commercialized. Small tools, jewelry, broken parts of electronics, food or any small objects could be easily printed at home. If the object is too big and the stores don't have the parts ship in for a week. A neighborhood 3D printing shop could print you the object and delivers it to you in the same day. 3D printed car URBEE 2 is approaching the markets, the major shells parts are 3D printed, meaning the car is incredibly light, fuel efficient and could be easily replace once breaks.
3D printing will also reverse the steps of industrializations by bring the complete factories closer to home. All the factories need is a big 3D printer and it will produce jobs in America that was previously outsource to other countries. It will also spark a new age of creativity as printers let you produce almost anything in your imaginations, flourishing homemade cultures once again.
All technologies can be abused, all technologies can greatly benefit mankind, the determining factors are how people use it. The lack of controls of end product by government doesn't mean we should halt the research, or the usage of 3D printing technologies. The benefits greatly outweighs the negatives when it comes to improving quality of life, bring jobs closer to home, space exploration and many more. In the end 3D printing technology will help humanity enter its next stage.