“Like the magic wand of childhood fairy tales, 3d printing offers us the promise of control over the physical world” (Lipson and Kurman, 2013, p.11). The huge possibilities and range of creation offered by the 3D printers is power and like always, it needs some boundaries. For instance, a 3D pen with an accessible price cannot harm anyone whereas the chance of creating weapons could be quite dramatic.
On the brightside, the 3D printing ability of easily shaping any kind of curves and doing it rapidly are the keys of the success of the Invisalign braces. Optical scan data from a computer allow creating 3D invisible braces customizable for every patient. The personal structure of someone’s teeth is scanned and customized clear aligners are physically created.
3D printers overcome the complexity of someone’s dental area since “on a 3D printer, complexity costs the same as simplicity” (Lipson and Kurman, 2013, p.20) and it perfectly applies in this case. Moreover, 3D printing can reach an unlimited spectrum of shapes and
since the braces need to adapt to the moving dental area, you need new reshaped braces every two weeks or so, hence the 3D printer quality of zero lead time is invaluable. To be even more connected throughout the whole process the UK site http://www.invisalign.co.uk/en/Pages/Home.aspx advertises an app, which does not exist for the Italian market.
The success of 3D printing in the Invisalign project shows how many useful objects it can be made. Utilising these machines for medicine, when standard tools have limitations, is absolutely mandatory. And the more it becomes popular, the more the price decreases, as for the 3D pen.
The downside is that the great range of possible creations can be used to developed illegal traffics of weapons, drugs and others. “3D printers are the ideal tool for tech-savvy criminals. […] 3D printers are small and portable. They can make one custom object after another, in stealth, no factories, coordination or unnecessary exposure needed” (Lipson and Kurman, 2013, p.220). And it is not difficult to imagine. Knowledge and resources increase the crime trade as any other market.
Lipson, H. & Kurman, M. (2013). Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing, John Wiley.
Invisalign UK. Available at: www.invisalign.co.uk [Accessed 9 May 2016].
Invisalign IT. Available at: www.invisalign.it [Accessed 9 May 2016].
Google Research “3d pen amazon” [Accessed 9 May 2016] (first screenshot)