Roshni Patel counts down her top 5 advanced 3D printers, including one invention which can make 3D-printed confectionery.
In the last year 3D printing has taken the world by storm, allowing almost anyone to 3D print, rapidly prototype their designs and manufacture their components or products quickly and easily via the process of additive manufacturing and plastic polymers. But as the technology has become more widespread, the capabilities have only increased, allowing for the 3D printing of much more than plastic parts.
Developed by University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia, Biopen is a pioneering handheld printer for the biological 3D printing of human body parts. While this may seem a little gruesome, the technology uses a biopolymer which is combined with patient cells and can be used to repair acutely damaged bone and cartilage. Though this is still some time away from being used in hospitals, it already shows promise for bigger things, such as the reinforcement or replacement of weak or damaged bones and cartilage.
4. ProXDMP 320
Designed for the aerospace and automotive industry, the 320 can print complex metal components which previously would have been too difficult or too expensive to manufacture by hand. This manufacturing method has allowed companies to design stronger structures and specialist components and print them in stronger metals or alloys, such as titanium or nickel alloys.
3. ChefJet 3D
A favourite of every sweet toothed reader everywhere, the ChefJet speciality is printing chocolate and confectionaries. Loaded with nibs which can layer cocoa butter and sugar, the ChefJet can design complex and detailed sweet treats and sugar icing decorations. Recently partnering with American chocolatier Hershey, the company plans to develop new confections and solve their current issues, such as the crumbliness of their candy creations. So perhaps, one day Hershey will be marketing interesting and uniquely shaped chocolates and confections on our shelves, or even letting us design our own sweet creations.
2. MCor ARKe
Featured at this year’s at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the Arke printer is like nothing you’ve seen before. Best described as a 3D printer with the colour quality of 2D printing, this printer can utilize paper and ink to produce detailed and well rendered 3D models, perfect for rapidly prototyping products or making scale models in realistic detail. Named a CES 2016 Best of Innovation Awards Honoree in the 3D Printing Product category, the ARKe printer is small, eco-friendly and easy to use and aims to make its way into offices, schools and homes as an accessible means of 3D printing for everyone.
For an electrical engineer, this is surely the best 3D printer of them all. Able to add premade electronics and wiring as it prints and prototypes, this printer has potential to help designers to rapidly bring their new ideas to life, straight off the print bed. The printer is able to combine multiple material and components using conductive inks, flexible silicones and high-strength epoxies. Showcasing their 3D printed quadcopters, a wireless power disk and an embedded watch, these were just some of the products and electronic creations that could be made effortlessly with the Voxel8.
These are just some of the many brilliant new 3D printing developments that have emerged in the last year or so. There are many more brilliant printers and even better applications of their capabilities, from printing prosthetic limbs to lighter, more durable components for jet engines. With more applications and printing techniques developed daily, it won’t be long before someone remakes this list with even more impressive printers.