Wow, I'm getting old. When I went to school, I remember my teachers handing out tests that were printed using mimeograph machines, and the smell of that still lingers in my mind. Then along came the more standard photocopiers, and I was fascinated by how quickly they could reproduce an original document, not to mention spitting out extra copies that were neatly collated.
I also remember thinking... how cool would it be if I could make a copy of something real... something like a table, or a bike? Oh sure, I already knew about molds that could be used to produce many copies of the same thing. But what if you could copy something directly, without having to make a mold for it? Unfortunately for my legacy, it would be up to others to actually turn this idea into reality.
The process of 3D printing has been around now for years. Much like a regular printer uses ink to reproduce a document, 3D printers can replicate a physical object by applying layers of material which are then hardened, creating an accurate replica that is as durable as the original. Some of these printers are even sophisticated enough to handle objects with many parts, such as the movable jaws of a pair of pliers, and can produce a working copy from a scan of the original.
Someone Who Dares to Think Big
Until now, 3D printing has mostly been used to make copies of relatively small objects. But one man has had much loftier goals--he wants to be able to copy a house!
An upcoming documentary entitled "The Man Who Prints Houses" follows the story of Enrico Dini, an Italian architect and robotics expert who has built the D-Shape, an enormous 3D printer theoretically capable of replicating a two-story building. While having some success with it, so far he has not been able to use the tool to generate a complete building, and he has undergone many hardships along with way. I am hopeful that Enrico will eventually be able to make his device work properly, but in any case his story is very inspiring. Here is the trailer for the documentary, currently scheduled for release in mid-April:
I really look forward to watching this documentary when it is released. I expect it to be captivating, both from a technological and a human interest standpoint. Enrico's story is a reminder to all of us that we should never be afraid to follow our dreams.
You can read more about Enrico and his journey by visiting the official Web site, http://www.themanwhoprintshouses.com. You can also read more about this at http://www.theverge.com/2012/2/21/2811146/3d-printing-d-shape-monolite-enrico-dini.
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