3D printing is one of the coolest new technologies out there, letting anyone create real objects using just their imaginations (OK, and some CAD software). But the same printers that can make toys, jewelry and replacement dishwasher parts can also create some rather creepy items. Read on to see what unsettling items white hat hackers, pranksters and makers have printed so far.
A German security consultant printed a handcuff key that easily opened high-security handcuffs from two manufacturers, including one that makes airplane passenger restraints. The consultant, who goes by "Ray," <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2012/07/16/hacker-opens-high-security-handcuffs-with-3d-printed-and-laser-cut-keys/2/ ">said</a> he made the proof-of-concept keys in order to raise awareness of security issues. <br><br> In a separate incident, engineer Nirav Patel <a href="http://eclecti.cc/hardware/physical-keygen-duplicating-house-keys-on-a-3d-printer">posted last year</a> about duplicating one of his own house keys using a 3D printer.
This 2D illusion depicts a 3D object that can't physically exist ... so how is this guy <a href="http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:6513">holding one</a>? The clever trick is even more mind-bending in three dimensions, though if viewed from the wrong perspective, the illusion vanishes.
Looking at a miniature doppelganger of yourself, even a plastic version, could be a little unsettling. However, MakerBot <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2012/11/20/makerbot_photo_booth_will_3d_print_a_replica_of_your_face.html">recently unveiled </a> the world's first 3D-printing "photo booth." Just sit in front of the 3D scanner, and out pops a replica of your face. Not unsettling enough? Hop over to Walt Disney World during a Star Wars Weekend to get a <a href="http://www.starwars.com/news/carbon_freeze_me_star_wars_weekends.html">3D-printed replica of yourself frozen in carbonite</a>, just like Han Solo.
Dutch artist Theo Jansen creates kinetic sculptures of PVC called "strandbeests." The sculptures are powered by wind and "live their own lives" on the beaches where Jansen releases them. And now you can <a href="http://www.shapeways.com/model/247069/animaris-geneticus-parvus-5.html">buy your own miniature 3D-printed version</a> for 89 euros (about U.S. $116), if the prospect of a mechanical creature with a dozen legs skittering across your floor excites you.
A Japanese maternity clinic and engineering firm have partnered to provide expectant mothers with <a href="http://www.theverge.com/2012/8/8/3227461/3d-printing-fetus-japan-fasotec-hiroo-clinic">3D printed models of their unborn babies</a>, created from an MRI scan and encased in a clear, plastic replica of a womb. The "Shape of an Angel" service costs 100,000 yen (about $1,220) and also <a href="http://www.theage.com.au/technology/technology-news/japan-firm-offers-3d-model-of-foetus-20121128-2ackw.html">includes a miniature version to attach to your mobile phone</a>.
Want your own drone? Two UVA students have <a href="http://www.wired.com/design/2012/11/3d-printed-autonomous-airplane/"> successfully printed one</a> on a Stratasys 3D printer (one designed for industry rather than home use). It's based on a popular model plane, but it has modular parts that snap on and off for easy repair (or redesign and reprinting). While the plastic is heavier than the balsa wood traditionally used to build this model of plane, the advantage is that the students can create shapes out of plastic that would be impossible to make out of wood. <br><br> The printed airplane is currently being used as a teaching tool, but it’s not hard to imagine a day when anyone could print their own UAVs for their own purposes.
Take graphs of voter approval for GOP candidates. Turn those graphs into 3D CAD files. Then, naturally, turn those 3D files into<a href="http://mepler.com/Grand-Old-Party">sex toys</a>. Interactive Telecommunications Program student Matthew Epler did this for a <a href="http://www.wired.com/design/2012/05/republican-butt-plugs/">finals project about data visualization</a>. Why not? The prototypes were 3D printed, then used as molds to cast silicone objects. Yet they're still arguably the world's first 3D-printed sex toys.
The world's <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/nov/25/3d-wiki-weapons-guns">first fully 3D-printed gun could go into testing by year-end if its firearms license is approved</a>. However, questions still remain about how long such a weapon would last before it tore itself apart. Enthusiasts have already successfully printed parts of guns, including pieces that would normally require a permit to purchase. (One such gun <a href="http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/12/weaponeers/">managed six rounds</a> before it broke.) Still, sometimes it only takes one shot ...