Tun­ing You Straight: 3D print­ing for oldies

The Witness - Wheels - - SUPPLEMENTS -

WERNER Eh­lers from Mt Michael asks “Please ex­plain to an oldie like me what the term “3D print­ing” ac­tu­ally means”.

The short­est an­swer is to think hot glue gun. Heat up a stick of glue in the gun, plant your el­bow firmly on the ta­ble, and now care­fully squeeze out the glue in a lit­tle spi­ral to build a lit­tle wheel. Or move your arm to and fro in a straight line to layer a lit­tle wall. Adding a fan to blow over the glue will help it quick dry. Us­ing the thinnest noz­zle will en­sure the neat­est sur­face, a thicker noz­zle will speed up the lay­er­ing process, but re­quire a bit of fine sand­ing when the shape is dry.

All 3D prin­ters use th­ese three el­e­ments of a hot resin that is squeezed through a suit­able noz­zle, which is mounted on a well-greased axle and moved ex­actly, us­ing much the same mo­tor that drives a dot ma­trix printer.

The ex­cep­tion is the 3D pen, which ex­trudes thin lines of air-dry­ing rub­ber and uses your own arm, which of course does not have the nano-mil­lime­tre pre­ci­sion con­trol of a dot ma­trix printer.

Any­thing goes

You can 3D print ANY liq­uid sub­stance that will ooze through the noz­zle and set hard enough for your needs.

South Africa’s 3D-print pi­o­neer Hans Fourie said he used quick glue forced through a noz­zle by com­pressed air when he made rapid pro­to­types for F1 cars in the UK in the 1980s. He now uses choco­late to 3D print any shape you like in his company Fouche’s Cho­co­lates.

Another South African 3D print­ing trend­set­ter, wood­worker Richard van As, does 3D-printed pros­thetic hands for chil­dren. The med­i­cal field is also ex­per­i­ment­ing with liver tis­sue and em­bry­onic stem cells to print body or­gans, from ears to hearts.

And while the cater­ing world is abuzz with the lat­est trend of 3D print­ing pasta into spe­cial shapes for that ro­man­tic an­niver­sary din­ner or quirky business pitch, Nasa is ex­per­i­ment­ing with print­ing 3D foods for as­tro­nauts.

Olympic ath­letes also run in 3D-printed track shoes that match their feet ex­actly, and of course, fash­ion­istas have long been print­ing any­thing from brassieres to purses to dresses.

The liq­uid sub­stance does not have to be soft, how­ever. In the world of moun­tain bik­ers, su­per light and strong ti­ta­nium frames are in­creas­ingly popular, be­cause not a gran­ule of the ex­pen­sive metal goes to waste when they are 3D-printed.


Dita von Teese showed the world’s first fully ar­tic­u­lated dress pro­duced with a 3D printer in 2013 in a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Lady Gaga’s dress de­signer Michael Sch­midt and ar­chi­tect Fran­cis Bi­tonti. They uses pow­dered ny­lon and 3 000 joints to al­low Von Teese to move, but only in the up­right po­si­tion.

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