3D printing has come a long way from printing small, cute prototypes of buildings with plastic filament. Today, 3D printing realizes its true potential in a number of industries. From fashion to aerospace, 3D printing is allowing us to save space, increase precision, and save money. A large number of filaments exist today, enabling us even to imitate wood. While many technologies today only exist in the digital world, 3D printing is bridging the physical world with virtual thought.
In aerospace, everything needs to be precise. Aerospace is one of the biggest feats of humanity, and accuracy is crucial for the development of a successful mission. 3D printing has already begun to add itself to this industry. 3D printing is being used to replace many CNC-milled parts (which can become extremely expensive and time-consuming), to test prototypes using models, and now filaments for 3D printing are production grade. ULTEM 9085 is a thermoplastic that is often used in aircrafts, that can now be melted down and used as a filament for 3D printing.
Think about the models that we use for architecture now. It is more of an art form. 3D printing is going to turn this into the literal translation from a CAD document. You can save months of time by having a 3D printer make your building model. The filament used for 3D printing lasts much longer than traditional model making, as well. And when you create designs, you can share them on a database for others to use.
So while (currently) 3D printed food doesn’t necessarily save anybody’s lives, it can most definitely change the way we “see” food. The future holds all kinds of gambles in food; shortages are becoming apparent and it’s getting harder and harder to feed our ever growing population with our current diet. But science is finding ways to grow meat and uses alternative substances to make the foods that are harder to produce today. 3D printing can help adjust ourselves to the switchover to beef patties made of bugs.
4. Product Design
To be able to design something on your computer in the morning, print it out in an hour, try it out, find the faults, redesign, and have a 2nd prototype printed out before noon is what makes 3D printing so great in product design. We’ve never been so close to developing models before actual production than with 3D printing; before, product design produced “concepts.” But now, we can get near perfect representations of our products, in a matter of minutes, and continue the prototyping process until we have the perfect model.
3D printing plays a role in multiple facets of the medical industry. When it comes to prototyping, 3D printing cuts costs to a fraction of the price, allowing the medical industry to create trial-ready products completely in house. Precision and finesse allow 3d printing to print lines as small as .020 inches in diameter, which helps in creating many tiny medical tools from CAD modeling. With the multitude of filaments that are now in creation, 3D printers can print out “body parts” that medical students can practice on. Filaments used by 3D printers can be hard, soft, rubbery, metallic; scientists are working to find a filament for every texture.
Making molds of teeth are useful, but not so customizable. 3D printing allows for dentists to make accurate replicates of a patient’s teeth so that replacement teeth, or crowns, can function more accurately in a patient’s mouth. Objet Digital is a 3D printer specifically designed for working with the dental industry. It can use filaments that are very similar to bone to recreate teeth. And with all of the models developed online, dentists can save space in their offices.
7. Construction Industry
In Dubai, it is becoming more and more common to see 3D printing robots on build sites. Cazza, a 3D printing construction firm, is set to complete the first ever 3D printed skyscraper. They have developed specialized machines that can print buildings from the ground up. Companies all over the world are finding a keen interest in purchasing these robots, and we will be seeing more prototypes and more buildings coming from 3D printing robots. 3D printing robots are said to use much less construction waste and can use environmentally friendly filaments for the construction base.
While it may seem strange to pair futuristic technologies with agriculture, there’s a lot of use that can come with 3D modeling. Many farms need very specific tools, and the normal cost of a tooled cast can be from $8000 to $12,000- with waits of up to three months. PLA, or polylactic acid, is a filament that can be used in 3D printing that costs as little as $0.25 per cubic inch. This can drastically save money and time for farmers who are looking to update their agricultural machines.
Although 3D printed clothes are far from being produced in the general market, concept clothing has been in the works since 2013, with visionaries imagining a world where the consumer can one day print clothes to fit their exact measurements. Home printed dresses are visions that companies like Chanel see in the not-so-distant future. As for early adopters, many are using 3D printing to print out accessories such as jewelry, footwear, and eyewear.
10. Organ Printing
3D bioprinting is an incredibly exciting new industry that is growing rapidly. There has been much progress in 3D printed limbs, but researchers are finding that we are well on our way to creating 3D printed hearts, kidneys, livers, and many more. Cell Link is a company working towards this production, and we will see many transplants of the future being artificial. In the UK, the average wait time on a kidney is currently 2 years. Artificial organs will save lives and save money.