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The 3D printing industry has experienced consistent and stable growth over the past decade, disrupting multiple industries. Sometimes it is hard to keep track of them all. Innovators and the researchers in the footwear, fashion design, construction, automotive industry, and the aerospace industry have embraced 3D printing to make better products, faster. And that's just the beginning of the story.
Companies that manufacture and sell industrial 3D printers, such as SainSmart, also provide online services that everyone can access, and purchase. Also, with programs created by AutoDesk, data can be provided to 3D printers.
Closer to home, 3D printing costs have dropped so significantly that you can pick up a quality 3D printer for under $1000 for your desktop today if you were interested in seeing what all the fuss is about. 3D printing technology has never been more accessible contributing to the industry's system-wide boom. In 2019 the global additive manufacturing market grew to over $10.4 billion for the first time in nearly 40 years and it does not look like this growth is going to stop anytime soon.
According to the 3D Printing Trends Report 2019, the 3D printing market is set to double every three years with the annual growth forecasted by analysts varying between 18.2% and 27.2%. So, this begs the question; are we on the cusp of the 3D printing revolution?
The short answer? Yes. However, it might not be as obvious as you think. Of course, you can find some great at-home 3D printing projects that are even functional and helpful, but as previously stated the 3D printing industry expands far beyond your bedroom. Today that is what we are going to explore.
Additive manufacturing consistently gets a lot of attention because of its potential application to almost every industry in the world and most would agree that we have yet to see its full potential. We are going to explore all of the fascinating ways 3D printing is changing our world.
1. Better healthcare for all
The relationship shared between 3D printing and the healthcare industry resembles science fiction more closely than it does reality. Medical professionals are using 3D printing technology to print customized prosthetics for patients, to develop surgical cutting and drill guides, or even patient-specific replicas of bones, organs, and blood vessels. As healthcare is very individual for a patient this helps cut down on the costs and time of procedures significantly. However, disruption does not stop there.
In an article for Forbes Magazine, Jose Morey of Liberty BioSecurity went on to describe a world in which 3D printing technology will be able to “create personalized organs, skin grafts or mechanical parts to printing targeted nanoparticles, food, and pills that are adapted to one's specific microbiome and physiology.” Researchers from Tel Aviv University have even gone on to 3D print a human heart using human tissue that includes vessels, collagen, and biological molecules. 3D printed organs would directly lead to faster transplants, which would go on to save countless lives.
Earlier this March, the founder of the Italian 3D printing company Isinnova, learned that one of the hospitals sitting on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy was running short on a crucial component used to connect respirators to oxygen masks. The founder, Cristian Fracassi, went on to 3D print the components, personally delivering them to hospital staff.
2. 3D printing could be used to save the environment
There are multiple ways 3D printing could impact our environment that range from helping injured animals in repairing fragile ecosystems. More directly, 3D printing can reduce waste material, offering more sustainable industrial manufacturing alternatives. Even more so 3D printing will eventually make it easier for these same manufacturers to produce things locally further curbing our reliance on fossil fuels in the long run. Finally, 3D printing has been used to study environmental degradation.
Researchers from the University of Sydney, have used 3D printing to better understand the effect of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef. Even more so, 3D printing could be used to help the reefs recover from bleaching and storms. More and more researchers are looking to 3D printing to solve complex environmental issues. However, things are not perfect yet. Though many 3D printers only accept recycled materials, there is one study that has pointed to 3D printers using 50 to 100 times more electricity than traditional production methods.
3. 3D printing could be used to provide homes for everyone
3D printing is changing the way we build in more ways than one. There are multiple companies that have popped up across the world that have used 3D printing technologies to construct commercial complexes and homes. One of the most recent examples of 3D printing changing the way people live can be seen in the recent collaboration between the California based start-up New Story and two Mexican construction businesses, Icon and Échale.
The collaborative effort aimed to provide homes to 50 struggling families in Tabasco, Mexico. Homes like the Vulcan II can be completed in 24 hours using a giant 3D printer for the fraction of the cost of a real home. Even more so, the homes are safe and can last years.
While in China, the company Winsun offers 3D houses built entirely out of recycled materials, which cost less than $5000 to produce. Homes are made using a giant printer that constructs a homemade mixture of fiberglass, steel, cement, binder and recycled rubble.
4. Automakers are starting to love 3D printing
One of the biggest benefits of 3D printing is that it is a powerful tool for rapid prototyping. In one strong case, Ford uses 3D printing for rapid prototyping to make car parts for testing, saving up to $493,000 per month. 3D printing is also helping car manufacturers create custom, complex and high-performance parts. When Bentley wanted to add a little more flair to its luxurious Speed 6 vehicle, the car manufacturers utilized advanced metal 3D printing technology to create far more detailed, micro-scale precision parts.
Entire vehicles can be 3D printed too. EDAG’s Light Cocoon concept vehicle looks like something out of the Blade Runner universe. The Nature-inspired vehicle uses less material than a regular chassis and uses a unique fabric to protect the car from elements. In the future, you could eventually just 3D print the car of your dreams, rather than simply go out and buy a car.
5. 3D printing is changing your style
Fashion has also begun to take an interest in the power of 3D printing. Both established and young designers can prototype ideas much faster or even go on to design their own unique fashion-forward creations. Designers like Iris Van Herpen have consistently looked to 3D printing to create impressive runway sculptures that blow the audience members away.
Shoe companies like Adidas and Under Armor have tapped 3D printing technology to design better and more comfortable shoes for consumers. Eventually, you will be able to 3D print clothing items and shoes without even leaving your home. 3D printing will open the gates to hyper customization.
6. 3D printing is changing the way we eat
Yes, you can 3D print food right now. Companies like byFlow have 3D printers that can create edible dishware and tasty food. Now the 3D printing food industry is still very young but has a lot of huge potentials. You will not be able to print yourself a full Thanksgiving dinner but with the current technology, you can print things like pizza, pasta, pastries, and even sandwiches. 3D printing food has the potential to help feed the homeless. There are even now pop up restaurants that serve 3D printed food experiences. The company Sushi Singularity makes 3D printed bespoke sushi. While some 3D printing food startups have gone on to use food leftovers from restaurants to create tasty food filaments.
7. 3D printing will help us get to Mars and beyond
3D printing technology has already played a major role in the aerospace industry. First and foremost, 3D printing could be an excellent way to make trips to space a lot cheaper and lighter. Supplies and spare parts are not easy to come by while in space, especially millions of miles away from home. Being able to 3D print food supplies for astronauts could make longer trips much more manageable. Startup BeeHex has developed a 3D printer for NASA that can make pizzas. While NASA is developing various methods for the printing of parts in space.
However, the fun doesn't stop there. NASA is currently revolutionizing how liquid rocket engines are made. Just this past year researchers tested a 2,400 lbs 3D-printed copper rocket thrust chamber. In the not so distant future, astronauts may work with autonomous robots to 3D print everything from rockets to entire colonies while hopping from planet to planet.
As stated by Marc Fischer from Dogtown Media LLC, “Space station teams and intergalactic explorers will utilize this tech to manufacture components and products without needing to wait around for resupply missions. This will enable mankind to venture forth further than ever possible before.”
In what ways do you think 3D printing will change your life in the next 10 years? Leave your comments below.