3D Printing

Written by Katie Yates, Class of 2017

It started as a small headache, but as a week or two went by it grew worse. This wasn’t a normal headache, but a massive pounding pain in her head. She began losing her eyesight, and her ability to drive declined more and more as the days went by.

The unnamed 22-year old from Netherlands was suffering from a rare condition that caused the inside of her skull to grow, squeezing her brain. Chances of living looked slim, until Dr. Bon Verweij gave her hope. With a custom-fitted 3D-printed skull, he performed the first ever surgery to replace a patient’s whole skull. Taking a mammoth 23 hours, the operation was a success. Not only was the woman saved, but she also regained her vision and was able to return to work. This is the power of the 3D printer.

You may wonder: how do these machines operate? Well, imagine holding a tube of toothpaste, and squishing some out onto the sink in a straight line. You do the same thing a couple more times, each row of toothpaste layering on top of the other. This is similar to how 3D printing works. First, an object is either drawn on a computer, or scanned from a real-life object.  It is then sent to the 3D printer, which prints the object, layer by layer. The most common material to print with is plastic, which comes on large spools and looks similar to the plastic strings used for tennis raquets. The plastic is melted as it prints, and then hardens again as it cools.

wolf ring

3D printed wolf rings

The 3D printer was created in 1984, and four years later it became available to the public. Now, 3D printers are being used for all kinds of applications. It is used to build prototypes of spaceships, replicate priceless artifacts, and print toys. Not only that, but the 3D printer is used to replicate body parts. Instead of having a prosthetic leg, a patient would have their very own custom-made 3D printed leg.  The possibilities seem endless.

Being made in God’s image, the human mind is gifted with an incredible thirst for creativity, and the human heart is always looking for a way to improve society.  The 3D printer is a powerful tool that is putting these strong and uniquely human desires within easier reach.

Did You Know?

Nike uses 3D printers to create multi-colored prototypes of shoes. They used to spend thousands of dollars on a prototype and wait weeks for it. Now, the cost is only in the hundreds of dollars, and changes can be made instantly on the computer and then reprinted in the same day.

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