Simulated insect wings have been 3D-printed by a research team at Cornell. The Cornell Computational Synthesis Laboratory explain that they are in the process of “developing a ﬂapping-wing hovering insect using 3D printed wings and mechanical parts.” See image, above.
“The use of 3D printing technology has greatly expanded the possibilities for wing design,” they add, “allowing wing shapes to replicate those of real insects or virtually any other shape. It has also reduced the time of a wing design cycle to a matter of minutes.”
As Popular Science describes it, “Printing the translucently thin wings (constructed of a thin polyester film stretched on a carbon fiber frame) on a desktop printer allowed them not only to cut down on production time, but allows for much faster experimentation with different wing designs.” Further, “the ability to experiment quickly and precisely with various wing shapes and constructions should also allow researchers to more closely mimic real insect wing designs and study the lift dynamics powering a variety of natural flying organisms.”
Somewhat randomly, I might add that a functioning flute was 3D-printed late last year by MIT’s Amit Zoran—whose research partner, Marcelo Coelho, spoke at Foodprint NYC in February 2010 about their joint proposal for a 3D food-printer to be called “Cornucopia.”
I mention this here, though, because the rapidly increasing intricacy of 3D-printed systems and objects seems inevitably to be leading to a day when 3D-printers will be installed permanently inside buildings or construction sites, acting as 24-hour on-site repair personnel—for instance, on-the-spot plumbers and electricians.
That is, fed the right mix of copper, glass fiber, or high-density polyethylene, this architectural superprinter—like a brain installed at the core of the building, or up in an air-conditioned attic room somewhere, blinking in the darkness—will simply print into being all the wires, pipes, and cables that the building might need, even literally printing plumbing networks down into the exact place in which they would otherwise need to be installed. Insulation-printers. Roof-flashing printers. Stair-printers.
In any case, for a video of the Cornell 3D-printed insect wings in action, check out the Cornell Computational Synthesis Laboratory.
(Vaguely related: The Road Printer).