Desktop Manufacturing - 3D 'Printouts'

Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis of the USC School of Engineering's Daniel J. Epstein department of Industrial and Systems Engineering has created a machine that can produce 3-dimensional copies of CAD (Computer Aided Design) files from plastic and metal.

The system uses CAD files to build up a set of very thin layers of plastic or metal, thus reproducing the desired object. Unlike other systems that are more expensive and energy intensive, this machine can work with a relatively low-tech electrical heater filament. This new machine may be able to complete pieces in a fraction of the time.

So, you could think of a toy for your child, create it in a 3D software package like AutoCAD, and then "print out" a copy of it. You could even send copies of the file to friends, letting them print out their own copies.

Companies could create 3D files and then distribute them on their websites; you would make your own copy of the object at home.

Science fiction fans are, of course, long familiar with this idea. See nanofax from William Gibson's 1984 novel Neuromancer for more ways to use this technovelgy.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/26/2003)

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