Printing off the paper – MIT News Office

MIT research continues to push the boundaries of the burgeoning technology of 3-D printing.

David L. Chandler, MIT News Office

One of the 3-D printers at work in the Mediated Matter group at the MIT Media Lab.  Photo: Melanie Gonick

One of the 3-D printers at work in the Mediated Matter group at the MIT Media Lab. Photo: Melanie Gonick

Imagine being able to “print” an entire house. Or a four-course dinner. Or a complete mechanical device such as a cuckoo clock, fully assembled and ready to run. Or a printer capable of printing … yet another printer?

These are no longer sci-fi flights of fancy. Rather, they are all real (though very early-stage) research projects underway at MIT, and just a few ways the Institute is pushing forward the boundaries of a technology it helped pioneer nearly two decades ago. A flurry of media stories this year have touted three-dimensional printing — or “3DP” — as the vanguard of a revolution in the way goods are produced, one that could potentially usher in a new era of “mass customization.”

One of the first practical 3-D printers, and the first to be called by that name, was patented in 1993 by MIT professors Michael Cima, now the Sumitomo Electric Industries Professor of Engineering, and Emanuel Sachs, now the Fred Fort Flowers (1941) and Daniel Fort Flowers (1941) Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Unlike earlier attempts, this machine has evolved to create objects made of plastic, ceramic and metal. The MIT-inspired 3DPs are now in use “all over the world,” Cima says.

The initial motivation was to produce models for visualization — for architects and others — and help streamline the development of new products, such as medical devices. Cima explains, “The slow step in product development was prototyping. We wanted to be able to rapidly prototype surgical tools, and get them into surgeons’ hands to get feedback.”

vía Printing off the paper – MIT News Office.

@ Bruce Sterling

Neri Oxman, the Sony Corporation Career Development Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, prints concrete.

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