Initially seen as a fun piece of technology to make plastic replicas of pretty much everything, the 3D printer is now infiltrating many different industries and changing the way we create anything. Here are 5 examples of how this recent technological advance is beginning to change the world as we know it.
We have come along way since using wood as a prosthetic, and advances have enabled fantastic things such as the progression of Paralympic athletes. The progression of prosthetics can at least partly be attributed to 3D printing. What it allows is for unique customisation though graphic designers, who can create something much more personalised to the individual and individual needing it than ever before.
Take for example the idea of finding prosthetics for children. In times gone by there may have well been a “one size fits all” policy in prosthetic provision. Thankfully this is no longer the case and movements such as Enabling The Future look to make a lasting difference to kids of all backgrounds and differing needs.
It is arguable that 3D printing is revolutionising the manufacture of products, and in turn, revolutionising the prototyping industry. Creating a single prototype before 3D printing was a much more time consuming task, but 3D printing has hugely reduced production time.
Prototype Projects create prototypes of all shapes, sizes and materials and they suggest that 3D printing has enabled businesses to not just create single prototypes, but batches of them for relatively little cost. This not only speeds up the production process but also allows more room for error because multiple prototypes can be created and then discarded because they are so cheap.
We have already mentioned the use of 3D printing in medical developments through prosthetics, however this isn’t the only area of medicine it is being used in. Doctors and MRI specialists have begun using scans of effected areas of ill people to create 3D printed models to further diagnose and treat patients.
A fantastic story earlier this year showed just how important this use of 3D printing can be. A two year old girl from the UK was born with a serious heart defect which was life threatening. Doctors then created a 3D printed model of her heart so that surgeons could better plan the incredibly intricate surgery to repair her heart.
It is thought that without the aid of the printer the chances of the operation being as successful would have been much slimmer. It is also thought the use of 3D printing will reduce costs in the future because it reduces surgery time which can be particularly expensive.
The development of 3D printing has become incredibly valuable to the automotive industry in both creating prototypes and final products. One misconception about 3D printing is that everything is created by cheap plastics, this simply isn’t true. There is now a wide range of materials with varying strengths.
The automotive industry has embarked on using 3D printing to create parts for both the interior and exterior of cars. Linking back to the part of this post which referred to prototyping, car companies have used prototyping to fascinating degrees in the development of concept cars we regularly see rolled out at motor shows.
3D printing has even taken to the skies. Because 3D printing enables you to create very sturdy but light objects this has lent itself to the aerospace industry. Because of this it has been used in the creation of helicopters, aeroplanes and even spacecraft.
The famous mars rover vehicle was developed using 3D printing. A reported 80 parts of the NASA vehicle were built digitally and then created through a 3D printer.
These are just 5 examples of how important and influential the production technique of 3D printing has become, but there are plenty more out there. With the technology continuously progressing, expect even more from it in the near future.