Companies use 3D printed prototypes to facilitate their production processes. Engineers design 3D printed parts for machines. Hobbyists create 3D printed jewellery, toys, and trinkets. Educators encourage students to create 3D printed characters, symbols, and concepts.
Even as companies, engineers, hobbyists, and educators continue to be innovative with the applications of 3D printers, these sorts of 3D printed objects have become almost commonplace, as though they are simply expected now.
But 3D printing hasn’t stopped at the expected. Some 3D printed objects are quite unexpected, or at the very least, weird.
3D printers have brought dead animals and people “back to life.”
At the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., a team of 3D printing experts is creating a to-scale version of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. They have scanned and digitized bones found during excavation. The 3D printed version will allow for manipulations of the skeleton that would be difficult to do with real bones.
Scientists at Loughborough University in the U.K. have created a full 3D printed replica of King Richard III. Forensic scientists completed a facial reconstruction that, once printed, allowed historians to “see” him for the first time.
Apis Cor, a San Francisco-based start-up, gained some Internet fame after 3D printing an entire house in 24 hours. The 400-square-foot house’s walls, partitions, and building envelope were printed out of concrete, and it cost less than £10,000 to make.
These houses might seem strange, and small, but they could be cheap and fast housing solutions for those in need. A 3D printed castle might be a less practical 3D printed structure, but it’s equally unexpected and impressive.
Danit Peleg is a fashion designer whose graduate collection was comprised entirely of 3D printed clothing. She even designed a 3D printed dress for the opening ceremony of the 2016 summer Paralympics Games. Like many 3D printed items, the clothes she designs are customisable.
The very first 3D printed, ready-to-wear clothing item was a bikini designed by Continuum Fashion. The bikini is printed using Nylon 12, a fabric made using a specially written algorithmic script. Each “cup” of the bikini top costs just over £100, but they are made to order and would be a novelty at the beach.
Alternative food sources are up-and-coming 3D printed products. Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands has developed a way to 3D print meat. Other scientists have used algae proteins, beet leaves, and insects to create sustainable food products.
3D printed food that is easier to palate includes using recognizable foods, like chocolate, to create edible objects. Everyday cooks could design fancy desserts, or at the very least, a flower made out of pureed carrots might become a technique for getting picky toddlers to eat their vegetables
Humans landed on the moon in 1969; when will they land on Mars? Scientists must deliberate with the time and cost of space travel, and the limited number of necessities that can be transported with colonists.
However, these items may be able to be 3D printed.
Researchers at Northwestern University in the United States are experimenting with a way to use Martian dust, combined with solvents and biopolymer, to 3D print objects. Using simulated dust, they were able to print objects that were tough and flexible and could likely be printed into any shape.
Some of these weird 3D printed objects might remain novelties. It’s hard to tell if 3D printed clothing will ever become a mainstream fashion trend, or if colonists on Mars really will use Martian dust to 3D print the tools they need to survive.
What we do know is that the more innovative people are with their 3D printers, the more advances there are to help humanity. 3D printed prosthetics may have seemed unrealistic at first, too, but these artificial limbs have become a life-improving reality for many people around the world.
Instead of questioning these latest weird 3D printing trends, we should welcome and encourage these innovative thinkers. They could develop solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.