Three-dimensional printing is an increasingly important tool for industry and research, and the terminology as well as the technology is creeping into the consumer market. But what is it? And how are UCLA faculty and students using it to create everything from bone splints to stunning fashion?
The digital revolution has given us 24/7 access to every conceivable piece of information we might need (and much that we don't). You say you want a new revolution? Some believe we may be on the verge of one that's analogous: the ability to print anything, any time — not on paper, but in three dimensions. Shoes. Toys. Jewelry. Prosthetics. Pizzas. Apartments.
That's right, apartments. Last fall, in the Munich-based 3M futureLAB run by Peter Ebner, visiting professor in UCLA Architecture and Urban Design (A.UD), a group that included UCLA architecture students produced what they billed as the world's first apartment using only 3-D technology — fully furnished and complete with bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living space, if a bit cramped at about 37 square feet. Ebner predicts that over the next two decades, 3-D printing will overtake construction in architecture as part of "the next industrial revolution."