© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Three Dimensions, Endless Possibilities

A printer is seen during Dylan's Candy Bar-New York City Flagship 3rd Avenue launch of 3-D printed candy.
Cindy Ord/Getty for Dylan's Candy Bar
A printer is seen during Dylan's Candy Bar-New York City Flagship 3rd Avenue launch of 3-D printed candy.

Five years ago, Cody Wilson fired the world’s first fully 3-D-printed gun at a range in central Texas. Then he shared the blueprint online, where it was downloaded over 100,000 times in the first few days.

When the U.S. State Department eventually caught on, they demanded that he remove the blueprints from his site due to export control laws. A multi-year legal battle ensued over First and Second Amendment rights and, after a quiet settlement in May, Wilson is back to developing his digital arsenal.

Wired’s Andy Greenberg tried his hand at 3-D printing a gun — right in his office — and reported that it was surprisingly easy—and cheap.

These days, 3-D printers are everywhere. And the ease with which guns can be printed — not to mention, printed under the radar — has raised concerns about the technology’s ubiquity.

But 3-D printers are also helping to address problems and fill resource gaps in a variety of fields — particularly medicine.

Organovo, a San Diego-based company, is pioneering efforts to create printable bio-ink from donor organ cells. CEO Taylor Crouch told Financial Times: “What was once a plot for a science fiction novel is now advancing our scientific research.”

3-D printing is also revolutionizing prosthetics and reconstructive surgery.

From The Guardian:

Slowly but surely, 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has been revolutionising aspects of medicine since the start of the century, just as it has had an impact on so many other industries, from cars to clothing. Perhaps this is not surprising, given that its key benefit is to enable the rapid and cost-efficient creation of bespoke products.

Where is 3-D printing headed? And… how does it work, exactly?

*Show produced by Bianca Martin, text by Kathryn Fink*.


Trevor Johnston, Associate political scientist, RAND Corporation

Adam Clark Estes, Senior editor, Gizmodo; @adamclarkestes

Steve Israel, Author, “Big Guns”; former United States Representative, New York’s 3rd congressional district; @RepSteveIsrael

Aline Nachlas, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University

Dr. John Jackson, Associate professor, Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine

For more, visit https://the1a.org.

© 2018 WAMU 88.5 – American University Radio.

Copyright 2021 WAMU 88.5. To see more, visit WAMU 88.5.