The Most Mind-Blowing 3-D Printed Objects Of 2012

It was a huge year for 3-D printing technology, which touched everything from sports to chemistry to firearms.
"Designed to Win" is the brand name of French engineering and design student Luc Fusaro's 3-D-printed running shoe. It's also an apt descriptor of this custom-fabricated concept that can theoretically shave 3.5 percent off a sprinter's time--enough to change his or her position on the medal podium. Using a nylon polymer powder and an additive manufacturing process known as selective laser sintering, Fusaro can turn a 3-D scan of an athlete's foot into a custom-fitting, bare-bones athletic shoe with no extraneous material and a super-lightweight structure. The finished product weighs just 96 grams, or less than three-quarters the weight of Nike's super-minimalist Mayfly racing shoe. By the time the summer Olympics come back around in 2016, this kind of technology could be everywhere. Luc Fusaro

Advances in 3-D fabrication enabled some amazing feats of design and ingenuity this year: on-demand running shoes, labware, even body parts.

As with any groundbreaking technology, controversy arose, whether it was over a 3-D printed key that can crack open handcuffs or a 3-D printed firearm that could give average Joes on-demand access to guns–no five-day waiting period required.

But even the projects that raised ethical questions or exposed our legal framework to gaping gray areas are, in their own ways, technological triumphs–proof of 3-D printing’s vast potential and popular momentum. Frankly, we can’t wait to see what 2013 has in store for us. Until then, click though the gallery link below for a quick spin through the best and most mind-blowing 3-D printed objects we saw in 2012.