The $900,000 metal 3-D printer recently installed at Iowa State isn't all that different from the plastic 3-D printers that have swept through the worlds of traditional manufacturing and high-tech entrepreneurship. In fact, 3-D printing is becoming so ubiquitous that researchers have printed everything from edible pizza to models of human hearts to prosthetics for amputees.
But experts say metal 3-D printers like the one at Iowa State are poised to alter the manufacturing process, since the mammoth machines can help companies build prototypes and line-ready parts more quickly and cheaply. And without the traditional constraints of machinery encumbering the design process, 3-D printers can create parts that would be impossible with popular manufacturing methods.
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