Pack a printer on your next trip

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3D printed hand prototype, by Richard van As, South Africa, 2013.

If you do not identify with minimalist packing like yours truly, then airport luggage checks sit at the very top of your nightmare list. With a few hundred dollars, you can acquire your own 3-D printer and print your own clothes as fashion designer Danit Peleg does. If you have an extra nerdy friend, you may gift them a 3-D tie from 3dtie.com.

At its most basic, 3D printing is exactly as stated – creating a 3-dimensional object from a digital file. Unlike your usual ink jet that produces a single paper, these printers create objects by successively laying down several layers. A virtual model is first created using the modelling programs available or a 3D scanner if you are copying an existing object. Therefore, the possibility of using your smart phone as a 3D scanner in the future can’t be nullified. The modelling software ‘wedges’ the model into horizontal layers that the 3D printer reads and uses to seamlessly create the final object. So instead of ink, we have any of the other possible materials being dispersed from the nozzles onto a platform. There are several methods used to fuse the material together.

under armour 3d printed shoe
Under Armour’s 3D printed trainer

Plastic is the most common material used but biomaterials are quickly gaining traction. Metals are also being used as the technology has recently been taken up in the aerospace industry. Companies that utilize prototypes such as in car and shoe manufacturing also use 3-D printing that cuts costs on production. If I get my hands on a 3-D printed sneaker, I may just complete my first full marathon.  This billion-dollar industry that spans from printed skin to avoid animal testing, recreating damaged evidence from crime scenes to printed bones is definitely a promising reality.

While printing clothes and shoes may appear as a 21st century luxury, I’m here for its possibilities in creating new organs, functional limbs and maybe even edible food.

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