A 3D printing video from National Geographic went viral on the interwebs last week and quickly generated some controversy among 3D printing enthusiasts.
In the video, physicist David Kaplan visited ZCorp HQ to “find out whether they can print a crescent wrench”. Kaplan was shown a selection of amazing items printed on ZCorp devices, including multicolored objects with moving parts, as well as the standard explanation of how 3D printing actually works.
Then the interesting part occurred. Kaplan’s substantial wrench was put under a hand scanner, capable of capturing highly detailed 3D information. It then appeared as if this captured data was then converted into a proper 3D model, “creating an image that will be sent to the printer”.
Then, just like you’d see on a TV cooking show, the printer was opened and a printed wrench was extracted from the powder. While the wrench was demonstrated to be strong enough for actual use, questions immediately arose.
We’re wondering how a hand scanner can discern moving parts, such as are found in a crescent wrench? We know of no technology that could do such a thing, particularly when the video showed no part motion during the scan. Viewers were left with the impression that you could simply wave your scanner at anything and hope to replicate it immediately – including hidden internal moving parts, and by extension even electronics!
That’s just not possible. This was noticed and challenged by several sources, including on Jon Udell’s blog, where a discussion erupted (link below).
Scan captures are usually nowhere near printable state, and always require at least minor if not major editing and conversion before printing can be attempted. Worse, a given object’s geometry might not be printable on a given 3D printer – the right 3D print technology must match the object.
Providing general awareness of 3D printing is a good thing, but leading people to unrealistic expectations is not helpful. We fear that a growing abundance of such memes will eventually cause a backlash towards 3D printing, as folks will soon discover that you can’t simply replicate just anything.
Correction: you can’t replicate just anything – yet.
Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!
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Welcome to Fabbaloo, one of the world’s oldest online news sources for 3D printing news. We’ve been in operation since 2007, where we first started examining the state of 3D printers. These devices are now relatively common among some circles in today’s world, but years ago it was extremely rare to see a 3D printer or even a 3D printed object.
At that time it was challenging to find any 3D printing news, so we decided to make our own site that covered 3D printer news, and even associated technologies like 3D scanning and 3D modeling. Today it is common to find 3D printers in schools, workshops and makerspaces, and you probably have been using 3D printed objects without even knowing they were 3D printed.
Today’s industry has finally taken up the challenge by installing thousands of industrial 3D printers, each producing previously impossible 3D printed parts that make today’s society far more efficient. The aerospace industry in particular has been producing many 3D printed parts, some even for flight critical purposes.
If you want to learn about 3D printers, then there’s no better place than Fabbaloo’s 3D printer news to see the latest happenings.
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