3D printing has been a growing trend since 2003. 3D printing involves a 3D digital file that is then sent to a printer and printed in successive layers – It works very similarly to your ordinary printer, apart from instead of ink it uses a special powder and binding fluid that in combination creates a hard 3D object.
3D printing has many uses; a very interesting use is in space. For example if an astronaut loses a tool, or even an important part, it could be reprinted in space, which would save a lot of time and money. Sadly 3D printers have not been used for this yet, but dicussions are being held to make a prototype printer that would be able to complete a task like that. A 3D printer is capable of printing with an accuracy of ± 40 micrometres.
A student at the Royal College of Art has designed a shoe for sprinters using a 3D printer. The shoe only weighs 96 grams. The amazing thing about this process is that the shoe can be tailored to fit the sprinters feet perfectly, even down to how thick the sole of the shoe needs to be. The down side to this is that the material (Nylon Polyamide) is not flexible. However, 3D printing is a work in progress and is being perfected, new printing materials are constantly being developed. You never know, sooner or later you might have a 3D printer in your office.