3D Printers and the future

Imagine a printer in your home that can print a child's toy like this in a few hours?

And imagine the toy is created with moving parts! It's already reality. It comes from a 3D printer.

But the ramifications of these printers is much more than child's play. 3D printers can offer a new horizon to jobs and manufacturing. And at Shelby County School of Technology... the future is being printed before the eyes of the students.

Steve Brooks is the 3D instructor says, "Right now the sky is the limit."

Imagine a world where you go to your computer and design what you want or need that day...a house, a bow, a bolt, a gear for a fishing knife.... that happened at the Shelby County School of Technology.

Steve Brooks says, "I am very excited it allows kids to see what they can imagine they can hold it in their hands after a couple of days."

In a short time, a 3d printer prints layer upon layer... you can have everything from a wrench to a bow in your hands, perhaps even in your own home.

"If you can draw it or design it we can print it." Brooks said.

Dr. Kenneth Sloan at UAB is developing some amazing capabilities by 3D printers.

Dr. Sloan says, "This is a fully functional rubrics cube. Interlocked in a way well this can't be taken apart."

3D printers can print objects with moving parts, layer upon layer.

"The main use of this technology is doing prototyping. We have an item that's going into space after it's made out of aluminum." Sloan said.

This cup holder prototype for experiments in outer space cost a fraction of the cost to make on this printer. Scientists and developers believe there is nothing a 3D printer can't do.

Here's how it basically works.... an image is either scanned with a laser or mathematically loaded into a computer before the computer sends the image to the printer where it pushes out layer upon layer of plastic to create the item.

Right now, most of these 3D printers use plastic, but some are printing with metal.

Printing a gun that fires has already happened, and the government has already restricted the distribution of the code that allows others to share the printed gun. Gun parts such as magazines have also already been printed and tested.

Students in Shelby County are finding out that the possibilities are endless.

Some people already have 3D printers, a technology that has existed since the 1970's, at home with the cost starting at around $1,500.

Right now, developers are beginning to use the printers to print houses, buildings and even human body parts.