6 April 2011
Last updated at 14:57
It still feels the stuff of Sci-Fi, but 3-D printing is edging ever closer to our daily lives. Karl Willis, a PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, has been experimenting with using Microsoft Kinect to model real people in 3-D
Using Rapid Protyping machines, it is then possible to 'print' out the person's shape in 3-D. It can take up to half an hour for the model to finish, but it is definitely worth it, Karl told Click on the BBC World Service
"It’s essentially a 3-D photobooth where you capture a moment of time – a slice of your memory if you like – with your friends or your colleagues and you turn this into a physical model," said Karl.
As well as using Kinect, researchers at Carnegie Mellon have been working on 'Beautiful Modeller', an experiment that uses Apple's iPad to make 'virtual clay'
These too can be printed out into a physical object - in this case an artistic light. "What we’re looking at doing is creating new interfaces that let everyone really partake in the design process"
Karl's colleague, Cheng Xu, has designed Speaker, a programme that can twist metal to make a physical representation of sound waves
A person can say a phrase, for example, "I love you" and Speaker will bend and twist the wire so it reflects how the words were spoken
“You can turn this into a necklace or some earrings to give to your loved ones," suggests Karl.