FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – Oh, the Things You can Print

They say you can find anything on the Web. Thanks to 3D printing, that’s truer than ever. The kinds of stuff you can download just got a lot cooler and, in some cases, much freakier.

For the uninitiated, 3D printing involves laying down successive layers of material – often plastic or a liquid resin – to create solid, three-dimensional objects. For now, these printers are mostly the domain of the tech-savvy DIY and Maker crowds because they’re great for rapid prototyping and other design projects, but the time is probably not far away when affordable desktop 3D printers will be available.

Put simply, sometime in the near future, it probably won’t be that unusual to print an iPhone case. Early adopters are already doing it.

Clients take note: If your business makes something – as in an actual, physical thing – 3D printing has the potential to change your industry. Forever. I’m talking as much as blogs and social media have changed this former print newspaper reporter’s trade.

How and when this happens are up for debate, but there are plenty of innovative companies in this space. MakerBot and Shapeways are two notable 3D printing companies based in New York.

But enough about the business end of things. It’s FreakyFriday, and you were promised freakiness. Well, 3D printing can deliver on that front, right in your home, in successive layers of resin. Here are three of the coolest, weirdest and/or freakiest things being done on 3D printers.

1) Your face. Or your mom’s face. Anybody’s, really.

This one probably wins. Tech blog Gizmodo had an article this week about Brooklyn artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg, who is printing theoretical 3D faces of strangers from their discarded DNA. That is, she’s lifting genetic material from cigarette butts, wads of gum and stray hairs found on the streets of New York, creating rough likenesses via computer based on ethnicity, age, gender and other factors and then printing them out.

And you thought Facebook’s facial recognition was freaky.

2) Magazines.

As in high-capacity gun magazines. Austin-based Defense Distributed is spearheading what it calls the Wiki Weapons project to develop printable firearms and ammunition. This week, Talking Points Memo reported on its IdeaLab blog that the organization demonstrated that it had successfully created a working, printable gun magazine be named in honor of New York’s pro-gun-control governor, Andrew Cuomo.

3) Human organs.

This one is still down the road, but, according to Mashable, Scottish scientists are working to create a 3D printer capable of replicating human organs via stem cells. Of course, it’s easier said than done, but for lack of a better sentence: Wow – science!