What Can 3D Printing Be Used For?
3D printing technology has recorded a long duration of improvements since its invention in 1984. Currently, 3D printing is utilized to produce both models and actual real-life products.
Between other applications, 3D printing is often used to print scale models of houses and other types of buildings. Modern advances have enabled it to print real houses as well. And not just houses; it is used in industries to print auto spare-parts, body organs, foods, jewellery, you name them. It is as if this list keeps growing day by day.
Maybe you are wondering: where has 3D printing been found to be most effective? Which professional jobs could demand more use of the technology now and in future? How likely am I to benefit from 3D printing? In this edition, we explore the main fields that could reap the benefits from the practical application of 3D printing. Won’t you love to know some? Well, read on to get a leap into the future.
Architects have been among the leading beneficiaries of 3D printing. The good news to them is that this trend doesn’t seem to go downhill any time soon. Thanks to additive manufacturing (3D), nearly all modern city plans are now represented in real-life like 3D models to ease explanations to prospective buyers.
With the reduced prices of 3D printers, even individual architects and interior designers are beginning to represent their designs to prospective clients in 3D models. If architectural pictorial representations of “front-view,” “rear-view,” “Side X view,” told a thousand words in the past; then 3D models are saying a thousand more words on every component of their representations. In our store, you will find a 3D printer to fit any budget and any requirement for 3D models of buildings.
And the story gets even sweeter. Companies are printing houses using 3D printing technology. WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Company in China, for instance, made headlines for 3D printing an entire five-story apartment building. A series of other printed houses for cities like Dubai followed.
But why should architects consider knowing more about 3D printing?
Primarily, it is because 3D printing is the future of designing. Well, imagine if you could design a house using AutoCAD, supply a 3D printer with all the required raw material, then click “print” and watch a house being printed with precision. How great would that be?
The success of 3D printing in architecture will also allow architects to share designs and improvements of other designers’ designs. In a sense, I can imagine a time in the future when the architectural designing profession will not be limited to specific geographical locations. A designer in Chicago will able to sell his designs in areas like Japan or vice-versa. And Japanese architects will be helping American designers to develop new models. Well, maybe, soon architects too will develop some “open source” designs that will be freely accessed and advanced then reprinted into actual houses in various parts of the world. That’s the future!
But it is not just architects who will benefit from 3D printing; you might love this part. Picture this: you just logged into Facebook, and noted a spaceship-like car advertised by Chevrolet. You requested the car model and had it in your email after 30 minutes. You then delivered the model to a local vehicle 3D printing agency and had it printed after 48 hours. Aha! How nice does that sound?
The first time I heard of 3D printed vehicles, the idea seemed eerie and somehow ‘wicked.’ I could not very well envision someone riding a 3D printed car. But Stratasys and Kor Ecologic companies partnered to disapprove this when they printed “Urbee,” the world’s first ever printed car.
This technology was picked up by the market’s leading automotive industries like Volvo, Mercedes Benz, BMW, and Ford among many other companies in printing automotive parts. Mercedes Benz has been sponsoring projects that aim at printing more efficient trucks. I had written about a “spaceship-like car” in the introductory: well, you might want to have a look at the Blade Supercar from Divergent Microfactories model of 2015. That’s what 3D printing is doing. And it’s only getting better.
3D printing of replacement body parts
Kaiba Gionfriddo was born on October 28 in 2011. Though Kaiba was born prematurely, every part of his body seemed to be usually growing apart from his lungs. Kaiba was diagnosed later with a condition known as tracheobronchomalacia. This condition was because Kaiba had a weak windpipe that made his trachea and bronchus collapse. Michigan University doctors found the solution to this problem when they opted to 3D print a lung splint for Kaiba.
Kaiba’s story isn’t isolated. Dentists across the world are also using 3D printing technology to print jaw and teeth models that can aid to analyze dental complications. They are also using the technology to print customized teeth with incredible precision to aid people with teeth problem.
Analysis of surgical complications
Lastly, additive manufacturing is used to analyze surgical complications. A good example is the Axial3d, a pre-surgery diagnosis tool developed by Belgium physicians. Axial3D takes images of patient’s body parts that need an operation and creates 3D representations that can be analyzed by other surgeons (who may not be available in the operating room). This technology has been used to develop replacement/support body parts using bio-compatible substances.
Even then, this field is relatively new in the utilization of 3D printing. Much research and studies are currently required to enhance the use of 3D printing among medics in the future.
For a very long time, NASA has been researching ways to make food that can be more stable and edible even in the outer-space. The answer to this problem was the use of 3D printing to produce food.
But it is not just NASA; several food producers have opted to experiment on 3D printing in the production of foods like cakes, pizza, chocolates and many other foods. Somehow, the very thought of having 3D printed foods could send one the heebie-jeebies. But the technology has proven to make meals more attractive, tastier and more preserved as precisions of cooking are strictly measured.
Even then, much of 3D success in food industry remains experimental. However, any slight success of 3D printing in the food industry would be revolutionary.
Lastly, 3D printing has been utilized in the consumer industry to print gadgets, jewellery, and many other consumer products. This trend has been increasingly adopted owing to the fast speed of 3D printers. Most modern electronics like drones, toys, phones and other day-to-day appliances are beneficiaries of 3D printing.
Let’s take a simple case study of Peltro Company that has been manufacturing protective gear for 50 years. Since the company adopted 3D printing, it has shown that 3D printing helped it to cut on wastage and time of manufacturing significantly (more than half). This act has helped the company to offer more timely responses and become more productive.
There is no doubt that advances in 3D printing are becoming revolutionary. It’s application range from the printing of vehicles, to the printing of houses, body organs, and foods. It is hard to imagine all the possibilities of 3D printing. What we can tell for sure is that 3D printing is here to stay. In this edition, we tried to answer the question “what can 3D printing be used for?” through highlighting a few areas of application that have stood out in their applications and impact to the society. Even then, it is essential for all occupations to check through or imagine of ways they can reap from the advancement of this flourishing technology. If you do have a few thoughts you would love to share, we sure could be glad to hear from you in the comments.