3D Printers

The company MakerBot* had a few of its Replicator2 3D printers on display at the Ontario Science Centre over the weekend of 11-13 April 2014. They were there as part of the SpaceApps Toronto event, wherein participants have a weekend to solve an interesting technical problem.
*[CORRECTION: (16 April 2014) It was brought to my attention that it was not MakerBot that was responsible for bringing the 3D printers; it was actually the company MAKELAB that presented the Replicator2’s as part of its sponsorship of the NASA International Space Apps Challenge. Now that the challenge is over, the 3D printers have been brought back to MAKELAB’s workshop. Check out their website to learn more about what MAKELAB is up to.]
In the video above, the first printer is making 3 bracelets, the second printer is developing a robot, by printing each of its parts individually; later a human can put them all together. Unfortunately I never saw that one finish.
The printers work as, what is essentially, big glue guns of plastic. The design is loaded (via SD card), cold plastic is fed into the printer nozzle (which heats the plastic to over 200 C making it a liquid), the nozzle puts one entire layer of the design onto the blue surface, the blue surface then moves down a small amount (based on the resolution you want), and the nozzle starts again with the next layer up. Pretty simple right? You can have your very own Replicator2 for just $2300. Actually not a bad price. But you don’t need to buy one; libraries (Toronto Public Library, for example) and maker spaces (Maker Kids, for example) are starting to have them available for people’s use at a much smaller personal cost.
Space Related: The Marshall Space Flight Center will be launching a 3D printer to the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft as part of expedition 39 to test how 3D printing will work in space. The project is called 3D Printing in Zero-G.

The printer can make anything you program it to make, here is a plastic nut/bolt

The printer can make anything you program it to make, here is a plastic nut/bolt

nut and bolt apart

nut and bolt apart

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