3D Printing – Great New Applications
3D printing would be the stuff of science fiction if we were living in the 1960s. The technology to print virtually everything is becoming commonplace today. To date, with Statista.com predicting it to be worth at least $40.8 billion by 2024, the 3D printing industry is rising rapidly. What was once a figment of innovation has become a rapidly growing demand for solutions that other industries require.
We will certainly discover various applications for 3D printing as technology continues to develop. For now, here is what we already know about the importance of 3D printing in our world today:
The only industries to benefit from 3D printing are not healthcare and medicine. The automotive industry has already used 3D printing for several purposes, and not just for prototype production, in an age where factories strive to increase productivity and decrease waste.
For one thing, 3D-printed cars are increasingly becoming a reality, with businesses like Local Motors using what it calls a “digital vehicle manufacturing model” to produce a range of vehicles. To build easily customizable assembly parts, this model uses 3D printing. A project named Olli, a small urban bus built entirely out of 3D-printed material, has been completed by Local Motors so far. It’s a start, and it opens up a new window of opportunity to follow through for other vehicle manufacturers.
3D printing is also inching closer to being widely embraced in the motorsports industry, apart from casual driving, where custom solutions are necessary to enhance performance at a lower cost. Race teams can pick printing materials and strengthen additives for 3D printed parts using specialized tools that provide optimal results. This has not been fully investigated yet, but the principle of printing out low-cost synthetic components that are just as durable as metal components has the potential to forever change motorsports.
Public transport will also trickle down to these advantages. Before everyone gets to fly on a resin bus, it will only be a matter of time.
Of course, as a transportation branch, aerospace production will be influenced by the widespread use of 3D printing, especially as companies such as the SpaceX program of Elon Musk rely on the possibility of commercial space travel.
It will take some time, but the advancement of aerospace technology has already made huge strides. Sure enough, in the preparation and manufacturing phases, 3D printing has played a critical role. However, it is important to note that 3D printing (which went back in the day with the name of Additive Manufacturing) and the aerospace and defense industry have had a long history that dates back to the early 1990s.
Today, 3D printing is mainly used to test design ideas, enabling research and development teams to make well-informed planning decisions and build engines that can withstand launches and conditions in outer space. According to PERFECT 3-D, 3D printing can also enable the creation of custom parts as well as ceramic cores that are, for the most part, difficult to manufacture.
At any point, additive manufacturing is a pre-existing one that has helped the aerospace and defense industry. Yet, the industry is expected to hit new (and literal) heights with the advancement of 3D printing for more complex applications of aerospace technology development.
Medicine and healthcare are possibly the sectors that will benefit most from 3D printing. To provide quality treatment to patients and save and extend lives, these require more advanced technologies. Healthcare facilities may provide patients with improved treatment choices with 3D printing that is less dangerous and, at the same time, less costly.
For one, 3D printing technology can be used by surgeons to create drill guides that enable improved precision, especially during complex procedures such as screw replacements for hip implants. Also, it is possible to 3D-print surgical areas in the human body to give surgeons a clearer understanding of anatomical structures than the images given by a CT scan.
In addition to these uses, prosthetics and replacement parts may also be produced using 3D printing. For one, custom-fit prosthetics made from 3D printed materials can be supplied to patients who have endured life-saving amputations. Also, by bioprinting, patients who have sustained injuries or lost internal body parts such as kidneys may choose to replace these parts. As healthcare institutions are starting to invest heavily in 3D printing, we are surely going to see a future in which technology reserves a deep position in modern medical science.
We have learned so far that 3D printing is often used along productive lines, whether it is the production of synthetic limbs or the construction of custom molds that can minimize the cost of mass-production in the automotive and aerospace industries of specific components. From what 3D printing has to offer, the education sector can also benefit.
One example of 3D printing as an educational aid is that it can be used for interactive classes that engage the ability of learners to think critically and creatively. Teachers can illustrate digital models and allow students to manipulate them into certain types of shapes that can then be printed out. As a means of enriching learning experiences and training students for a technology-saturated workforce, subjects such as science and technology, biology, and even astronomy can take advantage of 3D printing.
In training settings, the technology is also useful. For example, in the medical sector, 3D models of body parts for students to practice on can be printed out. On the other hand, students of engineering and architecture may use technology to create scale models of design and structural concepts more precisely and within a faster time frame.
Will the future be exciting any more? As 3D printing technology continues to give us something different each year, as companies look towards cost-effective and safer steps for building the future, we can only hope for more investment and creativity.