This article was contributed by Heather Redding.
As it continues to make enormous strides, 3D printing is revolutionizing the way we do things.
By the end of this decade, 3D printing may actually be considered one of the most important technologies of the day. Not since the Internet have we seen an invention hold the potential for creating so many positive changes in the world.
Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing can be explained in simple terms as a layer-by-layer printing of any three-dimensional object based on a digital file. This tremendous technology allows for the creation of very complex structures of mixed materials. Here are 7 ways 3D printing is transforming our world.
Can you imagine living in a house that came out of a printer?
The path to normalization of 3D-printed architecture includes some fascinating experiments. Architecture is known to adapt its aesthetics to new technologies and 3D printing is already transforming the way we use our imagination with regard to architectural designs. Thanks to 3D printing, architects and designers can now create low-cost, high precision architectural models.
There is a San Francisco-based 3D-printing startup that has shown the ability to 3D-print concrete walls suitable for a small house in less than 24 hours. The ability to produce houses so quickly allows for more convenient re-housing of people affected by natural disasters. However, it is highly likely that the near future scenario for 3D printing is the printing of specific building components, not the whole building itself.
Now picture tasting a 3D-printed pizza
Is it really possible to print food? You may ask. The answer is yes, and it’s done in the same general way as a regular 3D-printer but with food material as the printing medium instead of melted plastic. You can say that food has become 3D printing’s delicious new frontier.
With the global population expected to grow to an estimated 9.6 billion people by 2050, sustainability is becoming more of a necessity. Some analysts predict that food production will need to be increased by 50 percent to maintain current levels. 3D food printing can contribute to the solution of the issue. You can already find bakeries, restaurants, and confectionaries using 3D food printers to save time and increase efficiency.
What if you could mend a “broken” heart?
The medical world is seeing some of the most incredible uses for 3D printers. One such example is the possibility of artificial heart transplants in the future. There’s also the current use of 3D-printed prosthetics, which are cheaper and a lot easier to make.
Thanks to 3D printing, students, doctors, and other medical staff members can have a hands-on learning experience in any part of the human anatomy through the use of 3D medical models. Surgical efforts have experienced innovation as well, and now CT, MRI, or other scanning data can be converted into a unique three-dimensional print that serves as a model for the organ that will be worked on.
A new spin on manufacturing
The manufacturing industry is seeing greater capabilities as 3D printing can potentially make the manufacturing process extremely precise with infinite options. In subtractive manufacturing, which is the exact opposite of 3D printing, manufacturers utilize a CNC machine for making parts by removing materials. By employing a 3D printer for production, manufacturers can essentially eliminate any excess materials and ultimately produce less waste.
Even with all of the potential, the implications of this emerging technology are hotly debated. Some manufacturing industry experts feel that the 3D printing technology will be highly disruptive, but others believe it is decades away from viability.
Envision driving a 3D-printed car
According to a report published by SmarTech Publishing, the 3D printing automotive market will hit $2.3 billion in revenue by 2021. There are still naysayers that feel that 3D printing in the automotive industry is all hype. One of the issues these doubters point to is speed in manufacturing. Speed is very critical in the building of cars and 3D printing is not known for speed. However, there are processes in development that could address this problem.
Are you ready for 3D-printed clothes?
A whole new wave of fashion is being unleashed through 3D printing. Now that complex geometries and patterns can be realized with ease, designers can accessorize outfits with jewelry and prototype and print new ideas. Designers can create the shapes they have in mind and create with extravagance while experimenting with forms. Nowadays, it isn’t hard to come across 3D printed jewelry either.
A Canberra designer named Charne Esterhuizen has created an entire dress with 3D printing technology. The dress stands at 175 cm tall and is made entirely out of rubber printed butterflies. This dress equates to about 800 hours of printing, and Esterhuizen estimates the cost of the dress to be about $90,000.
3D printing to inspire young minds
The education system in its current state is largely producing students who are consumers and not producers, and 3D printing can potentially change that. The technology has been redefining how education is administered. The biggest contribution so far has been how students now have the ability to bring their learning and ideas to fruition through design and production of 3D models.
With a hands-on approach using such tools as 3D printers, students will learn through trial and error with practical application. This opens the process of idea development and problem-solving, thus building key skills that will help in the future.
3D printing is transforming our world as it disrupts whole industries while creating new capabilities. Our food, housing, cars, and healthcare are being affected in fascinating ways and experiencing new beneficial solutions. Concepts that once seemed like sci-fi or things of the imagination are unfolding before our eyes.
Heather Redding is a tech enthusiast and freelance writer based in Aurora, Illinois. You can reach Heather via Twitter.