Printing in the Third Dimension


By Shea Garner

Being a product of Generation Y, every college student has witnessed the steady progression of printing technology. And, to be honest, most inkjet printers remain a pain in the ass. Seamlessly printing a ten-page paper five minutes before class is something of a small miracle.

It seems that before they’ve even perfected the usability of the sub-$100 printer, the industry has progressed with something bigger: three-dimensional printing. At its core, 3D printing is exactly what you’d imagine—a large machine that prints materials from a digital model.

This technology seems to have become more commercialized in the past year. In fact, starting in May, you can own a Form 1 3D printer for a mere $3,300. And while printing digital figurines may sound intriguing to those of us at home, it’s the scientific community’s application that is the most exciting.

For one, these printers can actually print living biological cells. That means, in the future, full meals could be printed in your kitchen without going to the frozen food aisle at Wegman’s. A more practical use of this method would include creating food for astronauts lacking vital vitamins and nutrients on long space missions (that is, if NASA ever regains full funding). Even printing human organs and tissues is now a possibility, as one lab has begun printing with embryonic stem cells. This would be revolutionary in the medical field, and could even drastically lower the waiting time for people in need of organ transplants.

What are your thoughts on this 3D printing revolution? Are we only years, or months, away from creating the next Frankenstein? Let us know in the comments section below or @jerkmagazine.