THE HOT THREE: Top 3D printing creations of the week (4th October)

3. 3D print a piece of Norway



Liberal politics, high GDP, low unemployment, Vikings, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, fiords – what is not to like about Norway? Well, brine-cured herring and pickled eels for tea, obviously, but let’s not dwell on that. Instead, let’s consider the Norwegian landscape, one of the most glorious, rolling, roaring, sky-kissing terrains known to man. If you’ve been there and fancied taking a bit home with you, then the Norwegian Mapping Authority has the very thing for you.

Terrafab allows you to run your mouse across a digital map of Norway, pick an area and print a 4 inch x 4 inch replica for free, so long as you have a 3D printer to hand. If you don’t have a printer of your own, a replica can be created for a cool $100. Or, if you’re feeling a bit creative, you can download the file and mess about with the mesh to your heart’s content.

2. A 3D printer that helps blind children to search the web

Hands on Search


This week’s warm-and-fuzzy-award undoubtedly goes to Yahoo Japan and Hakuhado Kettle. The search engine giant and the Japanese advertising agency have teamed up to create a new device called ‘Hands on Search’. It’s part 3D printer, part computer and allows the blind to search for items online.

The user simply stands in front of the machine, says the name of the object they wish to search and it prints a miniature version of that item on its building platform. The user can then pick up and touch the model. Whether they want to find a giraffe or the Eiffel Tower, they now have the same searching freedom as a fully-sighted person online.

The Hands on Search is currently on free loan to a Japanese school for partially sighted children. After that, Yahoo Japan will decide on a deserving organisation to which it should be donated. Though there is no current plans to put it on sale, the technology could make the internet more accessible for partially sighted people across the planet.

1. Print objects bigger than your printer with Hyperform

Hyperform 3D printing


A common complaint levelled at the concept of 3D printing being used for everyday, household items is that machines that are affordable to the average consumer are only capable of creating small objects. This week, two whip-smart young boffins from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Self-Assembly Lab have come up with a process that could change all that.

Skylar Tibbits and Marcelo Coelho’s Hyperform method allows users to print an item that is larger than the 3D printer from which it comes. Rather than print in a single block, this process prints a long chain of interlocking links, packed together in the smallest possible shape. Once printed, the chain is unravelled and assembled by hand into the desired shape. Each link is specifically notched so it can only be manipulated into the intended form.

So far, it’s been used to print items as large as a chandelier, though its creators do admit it is not quite strong enough to create things like furniture or buildings. Yet, as it develops further, this process may be the key to the wider adoption of 3D printing for day-to-day usage.

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