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May 12, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 11:25am

7 insane things a 3D printer can let you fabricate

From Minecraft models to body parts and many things in between.

By Jimmy Nicholls

Last week Yoshitomo Imura, 27, was arrested in Japan for printing out five 3D guns, two of which were functional. It’s not the first time scare stories have emerged about the potential capabilities of 3D printing, and in this piece we take you through some of the wackier suggestions for the budding technology.

1) Body parts

3D printing could create a new range of artifical body parts.

Even as one part of humanity is making weapons, another is trying its utmost to create body parts, and without resorting to human farming. So far scientists have printed ears, kidneys and bones, and although organ functionality is a work-in-progress, it’s likely printing will be making major contributions to medicine over the next few decades.

2) Food

I suppose technically we could have reused the pig organs, but we thought you'd prefer printable pizza.

Printed food may not sound appetising, but this logical extension to food processing has some key advantages. Home cooks creating ornate chocolate designs will find Choc Edge’s printer expands their culinary capacity, even if the £2,900 price is rather expensive. NASA has also been looking into pizza printers for its hungry astronauts, and other printers dedicated to pasta, corn and candy hint at the possibilities for food fabrication.

3) Computer circuits

Circuits. Less tasty than pizza, but probably more useful.

With the rise of Raspberry Pi we have seen increasingly advanced forays into serious DIY electronics, and Dimatix Fujifilm’s printers have continued down an obvious path, allowing you to design and print customised circuits and electronics.

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4) Personal figurines

Create bespoke wedding figurines to stick atop your cake, if you want to creep people out.

Family portraits could soon be the keepsakes of yesteryear, at least if the Omote 3D booth takes off. Customers have to strike a pose for 15 minutes while the scanners take a digital model, but if you can keep still you will have a set of figurines to take home and put on your mantelpiece. Opinions may be divided over whether this is cool or creepy.

5) Scent

Printed scents could revolutionise recipe books and menus.

Though nothing more than a concept at present, Sony student Zhu Jingxuan has sketched out ideas for printing scents, the suggestion being that they can be included in recipe books. How it might actually work is open to speculation, but if a printer can make organs a few molecules of smell shouldn’t be too hard.

6) Minecraft

Minecraft, sometimes described as digital Lego, is about to get real.

It may be less ambitious than the other projects here, but bringing Minecraft creations to the real world will excite many a player. Mineways allows you to take objects from the in-game world and convert them to 3D models ready to be printed, and pictures of others’ attempts show the models are just as dinky out of game as within.

7) 3D Printer

RepRap is a self replicating printer.

Credit: RepRap Project

RepRap boasts that it is the world’s first self-replicating manufacturing machine, but it is also the world’s foremost open-source, DIY 3D printer. Designs of varying complexity are available off the website, and while it is more effort than buying a premade printer, it’s a fair bit cheaper. And as a neat party trick, once you’ve built the first you can manufacture parts to the second.

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