5 Amazing Things That Can Be 3D Printed
The evolution of printing has advanced at a remarkable rate in the past few years. Since the invention of 3D printing in the late 1980s, the technology has been improving at a steady pace, as has its price.
In the past, 3D printers could only print simple plastic objects and were prohibitively expensive, but the technology today has advanced to the point where it can print with a wide variety of materials and can produce some of the most complicated designs. Here are some of the amazing things 3D printers are being used to produce.
Today, 3D printing technology can be used to print many different items. While having 3D printers spitting out whistles and action figures might sound like fun, scientists are using the technology to print something a little more valuable, such as human organs. This has to be the apogee of printing technology and is also where some of the most exciting strides in the field are being made.
Scientist can’t print complex organs yet, but they are able to print simple ones such as noses and ears. However, the technology currently has limitations. For instance, scientists are having problems printing tubular shapes such as arteries and have to print using a medium that is close in composition to the parts being printed, such as collagen.
However, these limitations will eventually be solved. Either by developing methods to build the scaffolding and the living cells at the same time or by working on printing systems that allow cells to self-organize. Being able to print organs on demand will probably be viable within the next two decades.
Millions of people are in need of prosthetic limbs that are not only a custom fit to their bodies but that are also affordable as well. Historically, prosthetic limbs have been prohibitively expensive because they have to be swapped out regularly and/or have to be hand-made. However, 3D printing is changing this rapidly.
Today, 3D printed limbs are light and are able to be tailored to not only the person’s body but also to their particular needs. They are also becoming less expensive and can even be customized to a person’s specific style. In the future, people will likely be able to print their own limbs out of human cells instead of metal or plastic.
Designers have been 3D printing clothes for a while now, but many ordinary people are now printing their own clothing as well. They do so by designing them using a 3D rendering engine like Blender and then printing them using a flexible filament like FilaFlex. This allows them to create clothing limited only by their imagination.
Danit Peleg is one such pioneer. In about 2000 hours, she was able to print a whole clothing line consisting of 5 garments. But she isn’t the only one. Other designers include Trusst Lingerie, a company which 3D prints bras, and XYZ Bag, which creates handbags. In the future, all of us will likely be printing our own clothes from the comfort of our homes.
Another exciting development in the world of 3D printing is the ability to print food. Much like a replicator on Star Trek, except not as complex. 3D print machines such as Foodini work by using the basic building blocks of food: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, etc. They are put in cartridges and build the food layer by layer. For instance, if you wanted to print a pizza, then all you would have to do is print the crust, then the sauce and finally the cheese.
This technology could be used to feed the world. Foods could be custom printed depending upon a person’s nutritional requirements. And since the cartridges have a 30-year shelf life, it also means there will be significantly less waste due to spoilage. Food will also become extremely portable because it can be manufactured on site.
As incredible as it sounds, apartment buildings are another thing that can be printed. Two years ago, a company named WinSun manufactured 10 buildings in a 24-hour period using a 3D printer that creates construction pieces using industrial waste on a matrix of cement mixed with a hardening agent. These pieces can then be constructed on-site, much like putting together a manufactured home. Since then, several Chinese companies have been working on improving the technology.
This building method is environmentally friendly because it recycles industrial waste, doesn’t rely on natural resources such as wood, and also because custom built parts are more efficient. Using this method to erect buildings is also fast and rather inexpensive. One Chinese company was able to build a villa in about 4 hours and it cost about $400 a square meter to build—as compared to the average price of an ordinary building which is about $5300 a square meter.
Whether you embrace this technology or not, it is clear the future of 3D printing is not only now but is also pretty bright. This technology will greatly improve the lives of people all over the world and will greatly influence how we all live our lives. Thanks to 3D printing, we can all look forward to a world with better medicine, cheaper housing and with plenty of food to feed everyone.
This guest post was written by Jill Phillips, a freelance writer from Buffalo, NY. She is an aspiring entrepreneur and tech enthusiast, who loves to share her insight on various topics. When she is not writing, Jill enjoys taking photos and hiking with her dog. Connect with Jill via Twitter @jillphlps