When you think of printing, generally you think of words, colours, shapes and pictures on a piece of paper or similar, whatever format it may be in – but every once in a while, technology makes a giant leap forward.

It’s not science fiction but science fact that you can now quite literally print out 3D objects, and the technology looks set to grow, with nearly limitless potential. New Scientist magazine heralded 3D printing as the “second industrial revolution” and it really is difficult not to marvel at all of the possibilities.

What has been achieved already at a fairly early stage in the technology’s development is quite remarkable. From being able to print a fully functioning keyboard with working parts to replacing 75 per cent of an injured American man’s skull, the applications are endless.

3D printers can be as small as the regular device sat on your desktop at home or as large as a small room, so the scope in size and shape is wide – one company in the US claims it will have a 3D printed, road-ready, environmentally friendly car on the market in the next two years.

3D printers work by printing three-dimensional structures layer by layer out of a variety of materials. Various plastic resins are the most popular, with the raw materials generally arriving as a spool of plastic wire that is fed through the machine and heated in the process – though other materials can and are used, with printers already on the market producing 3D chocolate sculptures.

There is one constant though – whatever material you’re using, the exciting future of printing is looking pretty sweet.

Julie Banks

I’m the business strategy person. I’ve worked in print for
almost 20 years so I know it inside out. For me, people
are the best thing about Zest, both my team and our
customers. I get a real buzz from helping customers to do
what they do even better.

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