3D printers change the future of manufacturing

Posted at: 05/13/2013 5:43 PM
By: Jim Kambrich


RENSSELAER - 3D printing is nothing like printing on paper, and it’s revolutionizing the way we make things, and the way we teach our children.

Jesse Wade Hunziker is a senior at Tech Valley High in Rensselaer.

He wanted to be an electrician, but that was before he discovered the school's 3D printing program.

“The more I got into it. The more I like it. And I decided that's what I wanted to do when I graduated,” he said.

Here's how 3D printing works: a digital model is made of whatever you want to build using computer aided design--or CAD. The program divides the object into cross sections so a 3D printer can build it layer by layer.

It's called additive manufacturing.

There's no waste involved, so it costs less to make things.

At Questar 3, an educational cooperative in Hudson, students feel 3D printing gives them an edge going into college, and business.

“It's changed my life. I didn't even know this existed until I came here. It's awesome,” said George Frederoff.

“We need to attract more young people to go into manufacturing careers. Its kinda what our upstate economy was built on and people are still kind of operating on an old mind set about what a manufacturing career might entail,” said Ted Hennessy of Questar 3

3D printing isn't just for the classroom. Students can take their knowledge right away to businesses like Saturn Industries, in Hudson where 3D printing is being quickly recognized as the future of manufacturing.

The company, which has a 3D printer, makes products for aerospace and automotive industries.

“In 10 years we'll be able to do everything by additive manufacturing,” says John Lee of Saturn Industries.

And there are medical applications.

A 3D printer at Cornell University uses stem cells to create cartilage for things like ear implants.

“This ink is actually a living ink. It contains living cells. Its alive when we put it into the printer. It's alive when it comes out of the printer,” says Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering Lawrence Bonassar.

The largest user of 3D printing in the world is General Electric.

At its Global Research Facility in Niskayuna, a million dollar 3D printer can print jet engine parts, layer by layer using metallic powder and a laser.

“What really limits the geometry of the part you can make is the limitation that the designer imposes,” says GE’s Probhiot Singh.

3D printing is also on Washington's radar.

Cody Wilson is a self described anarchist who runs a company out of Austin called Defense Distributed.

He is developing software that enables anyone with a 3D printer, to actually print a working gun.

His prototype "liberator" pistol is printed in plastic.

He contends, everyone should be able to print a gun--no restrictions.

“If we make a second amendment argument its all the way. It's to the limit. But I don't like to make it about the 2nd amendment or gun control at all. It's more radical for us. Like there are people all over the world downloading our files, and we say good, and we say you should have access to this,” said Cody Wilson

This has put Wilson squarely in the cross hairs of Sen. Chuck Schumer who says Wilson is being irresponsible and he's drafting a bill to stop him.

“So I think we have to do everything we can to prevent the manufacture and use of these guns and to outlaw them and that's just what I intend to do,” he said.

There were over 100,000 downloads for the "liberator" plastic gun in just three days.

Defense Distributed has taken down its downloadable files on the gun at the request of the Defense Department.