Updated: Jun 11, 2019
YOU THOUGHT 3D Printing was limited to key rings and knick-knacks.
BUT DID YOU KNOW that in the near future every household could own a 3D printer?
From key rings to houses, 3D printing is revolutionising every facet of how we create things. A printing device that doesn’t just print ink onto paper but prints a 3-dimensional object. While 3D Printing is not new, it has now moved into the mainstream. It has, and will continue to create so many amazing opportunities and solutions; it will give ordinary people the ability to create and customise appliances, create jewellery, or even clothes. The ability to 3D print things in life allows people to design and create many items from the comfort of their home.
Here is how 3D printing helps.
Here is a great example of how useful 3D printing could be. A passing car knocked off your side mirror. Ordinarily, the local mechanic needs to call a supplier to see if they have it. If they don’t, a replacement could take two weeks to arrive. However, with a 3D printer, the mechanic could access a design file for the part online and print it in minutes.
In health care industries
Doctors are starting to produce customised human body parts, for example, muscles, artificial tissue, cells and skin to treat their patients. Who would have thought we could save lives using 3D printing?
Understanding the process
The 3D printing process isn’t that much different to that of a regular printer. Under a microscope, printed paper is just one small layer of ink on a page. If you were to repeat those layers as hundreds or even thousands of cross section layers and bind them together, you would have made a 3D object. You may think 3D printing sounds great, but you don’t have a background in designing objects and don’t want to pay for expensive software? There are some companies, for example, Thingiverse and Shapeways that allow you to use their pre-designed objects on your own 3D printer. However, if you are feeling creative, you can try out free software packages like Blender of Tinkercad that allow you to customise your designs – you are then able to be the designer, the manufacturer and the customer – now that’s pretty cool!
3D printers are becoming more and more accessible, schools, libraries as well as businesses are now embracing this technology. The most common applications of 3D printing are small objects like a button, a camera stand or a paper clip. 90% of everything shipped around the world can fit into a shoe box – so the ability to 3D print locally has a lot of value, and it may well invigorate local manufacturing once again.
The future of 3D printing
The biggest element holding back the march on 3D printing is the reduction of the substrate (the substances of layers) and the restrictions of size. We have almost overcome all of these limitations, and some claim that 2019 will be a monumental year for 3D printing.
There are now a vast array of metals and other mediums such as wood, foodstuffs, concrete and many kinds of plastics are now available and can be printed in multiple sizes, textures and colours – if you can dream it, they can print it! As a result, 3D printing will transform the manufacturing processes and supply chain management – in the term of business 3D printing will save companies time and money – instead of shipping things from far away, companies will be able to make things locally. You can make one or ten thousand for the same unit cost, so suddenly making objects locally becomes far more attractive. Given that shipping is one of the worlds huge greenhouse gas offenders, think of the benefits for the environment. What makes this all more mind blowing its not just small things that can be 3D printed – you can print bridges and even houses! 3D printing can help the housing crises – currently, approximately 1.2 billion people live without adequate housing across the globe. In the USA, they can build a small home for less than $4000, which can be 3D printed in less than 24 hours. 3D printing has the potential to be of huge benefit to society if used appropriately.
3D printing technology for food production
A 3D printer can be used to print food – real – healthy – nutritious food – some chefs are using 3D printers to print certain aspects of their meal, for example, the time consuming easy bits, like piping happy birthday on a cake and decorative patterns thus leaving the chef free to carry on with the more challenging parts of the job.
The future of printing 3D food could also improve our health by allowing us to create real food based on our individual and bio-metric data. This food will only improve over time and become more nutritious and beneficial for our health. In the future, a 3D food printer may become as common place in our homes as microwave ovens!
So where does this stop?
No one knows. 3D printing is an innovation that’s unlimited in its potential to change the future in our lives. It is becoming evident that 3D printing can resolve a huge array of the worlds most pressing issues, arising from feeding a vast global population, excessive waste, reducing greenhouse gases and much more.
3D printing may be one of the biggest technologies of the 21st century, mainly the impact on industry and logistics – the ability to be able to print what you want when you want.
3D printers have come a long way, and the best is yet to come, the application really is limitless, and we are only just getting started. What can be 3D printed? Food, houses, cars, body parts and much more, with 3D printing technology developing at such a rapid pace the future possibilities are endless and limited only to someone's imagination and creativity.