By Rebecca Rooy

It’s a big day. It’s a day where you need more than just your talent, intellect, and charm to survive. The prescription for this challenge? Your favorite lucky shirt. The shirt that makes you feel empowered the second you slip into it. But wait, what’s this? You’re missing a button? And you, along with everyone else in the consuming world, threw out those extra buttons to your shirt long ago because after a few months, you couldn’t even remember what shirt they went to, and they were merely floating clutter. So, what to do? Frantically logging on to the website of your favorite shirt designer, you make a quick and pleading request for a new button to an online operator who works around the clock. Your plea is accepted, your credit card charged. And then … you press print.

It’s described as the corporate action of “Easy-Bake Ovening.” Imagine: a three-dimensional printer. The truly surprising part? It actually exists and works during this present day. Although the above situation will take a few years before full development in the common household, such printers are available for approximately $15,000. In fact, these machines, which are also called rapid prototypers, have been in use in industrial design shops for practically ten years.

Immediately, notions of teleportation come to mind when envisioning that day-changing button appearing out of a printer. Although the concept is fascinating, this magical button would be created in a physically ordinary way. These 3-D printers form objects out of material particles similar to how a current printer forms images out of ink specks. The material itself is already existent within the printer. In simplistic terms, the 3-D printers build models of the actual objects by using layers of either a powder or a liquid form of nylon and plastic. This material is hardened and shaped into diverse forms by the exact application of heat, chemicals, or light.

Many computer games, design, and creation programs are already being developed for average consumers, based around 3-D printers. There are many opportunities in the high tech world that will soon be based off of this refined printing expertise. Just imagine what may be created next after your new button is safely fastened to your favorite lucky shirt.

Hansell, Saul. “Beam It Down From the Web, Scotty.” The New York Times. 7 May 2007.