Once only accessible in well-funded labs, 3D printers are getting cheaper and you can print the parts to build your own one at home. In Düsseldorf, tech enthusiasts are having a go.
Thanks to open source technology, 3D printing is becoming more and more common. If you have never seen a 3D printer in action, imagine an inkjet printer laying ink on a page line by line. A 3D printer does the same thing, except with plastic, ceramics, metal, and sometimes even cookie dough, laid in layers one on top of the other.
Making the digital physical. 3D printers work by laying a thin line of plastic down in a shape commanded by a computer. This printer is melting bright green plastic to print a replica Statue of Liberty. Unfortunately, the machine suddenly stopped working while it was still printing and the statue went home headless.
A techhead's paradise: many of the parts of a 3D printer can themselves be printed. Take this red object - it hooks motors to a heating element that melts down the plastic "ink."
German designer Axel Ganz hosted this particular Düsseldorf workshop on how to build 3D printers. Ganz fell in love with the technology when he first saw it in action three years ago at a fair for geographic software. He hopes every home will have a 3D printer one day soon, and wants to help the technology grow.
A 3D printer at work. Ganz says you can print parts for architectural objects and models. In future, we might even be able to download the design patterns for spare parts to fix household appliances and other tech gear.
Success at last! One team of engineers managed to print this smaller, translucent version of the Statue of Liberty on their homemade machine. 3D printers can cost as little as 250 euros ($320) - as a group of builders in Spain discovered by recycling parts from old scanners - but if you buy a kit online, it will cost you about 850 euros to build one.
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