After 3D printing candy, teeth, small-scale arteries, and miniature versions of ourselves, we now have a way to 3D print hair, too. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute have developed a method of printing realistic-looking fibers that's inspired by the way we use glue guns [PDF].
If you’ve ever used a glue gun, then you’re probably familiar with those wispy strands of residue that form on the nozzle. 3D printers that extrude melted plastic function in a similar way to glue guns, so researchers found a way to control factors like heat, speed, and the type of material that's used to create exactly the kind of “hairs" they’re looking for.
The process can be used to form sturdier bristles for brushes or thin fibers that emulate real hair. The finished product can even be cut, curled and braided, though printing enough hairs to form an entire toupee would take a lot of effort. In the future, the technology could be used to make flexible joints and even improve the production of wiring and electronics. For now, we're just happy there's finally a way to give 3D-printed horses realistic tails.
All images courtesy of the Human-Computer Interaction Institute's Chris Harrison.