PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Most of us use computer printers for paper documents and maybe the occasional picture.
But 3-D printers are changing everything you know about what can be printed.
From a desktop printer, to one supersized, this is the world of 3-D printing while making a car.
"This is carbon fiber, reinforced firmed plastic," said Jay Rogers, CEO of Local Motors. "So what we're talking about is something that is actually an aerospace–grade material."
Or how about recreating a crime scene in full scale, or any scale you want?
"Three-D evidence printer, capable of reproducing evidence smaller than the naked eye can detect," says a character on NCIS-LA.
The show recently illustrated something that's actually now a reality.
"This is like the world's greatest Lego set. Do you have any idea what I could do with this?"
The world of 3-D printing is truly one bound only by the imagination.
"If you can build it in 3-D on the screen, you can output it to this device here," said June Marcum with JMS Design Consulting.
Marcum is JMS Design Consulting and just added 3-D printing to her engineering arsenal.
"It's generating a lot of excitement," said Marcum. "I actually have my first job scheduled."
Marcum's designs are highly technical, and with 3-D printing she can create scale models.
"When you can end up with an item that you can hold and develop a better understanding of, it's going to change the game," said Marcum.
At 4Moms, where they make high-tech baby accessories, the room full of 3-D printers works overtime.
"We're running them evenings, nights and weekends," said Kevin Dowling, Vice President of Engineering at 4Moms.
They're constantly printing out the pieces of new product designs.
"And that allows us to create an entire prototype product that is as functional and works just as well as the real thing," said Dowling.
The computer designs are put into a scanning program on the way to the printer.
"It slices the model so that the machine, we're able to build a file that the machines can then read in order to print that very part," said Dowling.
At Carnegie Mellon, they're on the cutting edge of 3-D metal printing, which has some real life, very personal medical applications in the near future.
"Customized replacement parts, you know, replacement knee, replacement hip, that are custom made, because there's no reason why you can't make every part differently if you want to," said CMU Medial Engineer Anthony Rollett.
And in a catastrophic injury, like damage to your skull that needs a titanium patch in surgery, you can have a part ready too.
"A cat scan is a 3-D model and you can take it without actually physically having to see the injury and produce these models in the computer ahead of time," said Ph. D. student Daniel Christiansen.
They can also make a bioscaffold that cells can grow into for tissue regeneration.
They're all practical applications of 3-D printing, made one molten drop at a time.
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