3-D Printing Is (Kind Of) A Big Deal | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

3-D Printing Is (Kind Of) A Big Deal

The first key to thinking about 3-D printers is this: Do not think printer. Think magic box that creates any object you can imagine.

In the box, razor-thin layers of powdered material (acrylic, nylon, silver, whatever) pile one on top of the other, and then, voila — you've got a shoe, or a cup, or a ring, or an iPhone case.

It's miraculous to see. Press a button, make anything you want. But just how important is 3-D printing? Unlike earlier big-deal technologies (like, say, the tractor) 3-D printing won't really replace what came before.

"If you're producing trash cans or stadium seats, you'll more than likely produce them the old way," says analyst Terry Wohlers.

And for consumers, the economist Tyler Cowen points out, it's still way easier to order something from Amazon than print it yourself — and that's how people will buy things for the foreseeable future.

Still, 3-D printing is amazingly powerful for personalized applications.

Right now, there are 30,000 people walking around with 3-D printed titanium hips, which are less expensive than conventionally-manufactured artificial hips.

Boosters of 3-D printing dream of a day when printers can make new body parts. More prosaically, they talk about a day when every shirt, every dress, every pair of pants can be custom printed to perfectly fit each person.

Another thing to keep in mind about 3-D printing: It democratizes who gets to be in the manufacturing business. You don't need a giant factory and million-dollar machines. You just need $500 and a garage.

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

We're Not Taking Enough Lunch Breaks. Why That's Bad For Business

Research shows that only 1 in 5 five people take a break and leave their desks to eat. Most workers are simply eating at their desks. But creativity can take a big hit without a change of scenery.
NPR

We're Not Taking Enough Lunch Breaks. Why That's Bad For Business

Research shows that only 1 in 5 five people take a break and leave their desks to eat. Most workers are simply eating at their desks. But creativity can take a big hit without a change of scenery.
WAMU 88.5

Opposition To Kindergarten Testing In Maryland Gains Bipartisan Momentum

The state Senate's Republican leader and teachers unions agree on at least one thing: Standardized tests for kindergarteners are a problem.

NPR

Clinton's Private Email Server Has Advantages, Vulnerabilities

While many of those messages are tucked away from the prying eyes of the public, it's not clear they are well-protected from hackers.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.