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TheStreet Open House

10 Amazing Things 3-D Printers Can (or Could) Make

Stocks in this article: SSYSDDD

Cars: Printing cars is far from mainstream, but the first car, the Urbee, shown at www.urbee.net, rolled off the 3-D printer line two years ago (its exterior panels were made on a 3-D printer from Stratasys (SSYS)).

The Urbee

It worked! Urbee, designed by Canadian firm Kor Ecologic, has a one-cylinder engine and can zoom to 70 mph. The three-wheeled vehicle carries only two people, and drivers would definitely attract stares for its futuristic and aerodynamic design. But Urbee won't be hitting dealerships anytime soon. Funding hasn't materialized, according to Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine.

Airplanes: Airplanes are even further behind 3-D-printed cars on the road to commercial viability. But the niche is taking off. Students at the University of Virginia just built and tested an unmanned airplane that was printed on a 3-D printer. As part of a summer internship with the MITRE Corp., Steven Easter and Jonathan Turman built an unmanned plane with a 6.5-foot wingspan, made from parts printed on a 3-D printer. Hitting 45 mph, the plane made four successful test flights last month, according to the University of Virginia Web site.

Bicycles: A working, 3-D-printed bicycle was printed and tested last year by The EADS Group in Europe. Parts were printed on the machine and then assembled. A bit wobbly, yes, but the Airbike did the job. Today, bike manufacturers like Trek and Giant use 3-D printers during the design process for prototypes, according to BikeRadar.com. That could change once 3-D printers are large enough to produce an entire bike frame.

Prosthetic Limb Cover: Bespoke Innovations uses 3-D printing to make "fairings," which are anatomically shaped covers for prosthetic limbs that can be decorated with different colors and graphics -- even tattoos. Co-founded by Scott Summit, an industrial designer, and Kenneth Trauner, an orthopedic surgeon, Bespoke uses digital photos of a customer's existing limb to create an anatomically unique cover for the artificial limb. The fairings can be printed within an hour. Bespoke was acquired by 3D Systems (DDD) in May 2012.

Acoustic Guitar: Scott Summit, the same guy who created the prosthetic limb covers, is obviously into 3-D design. His latest pet project started on vacation and resulted in a working 3-D-printed acoustic guitar that actually sounded "rich and full," Summit told Businessweek. You can make your own 3-D-printed electric guitar at Cubify.

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