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The future of 3D printing

by John Saunders
29th Dec 20 11:08 am

By now, you have most certainly heard about 3D printing. It is a relatively fresh technology, so there’s a long journey ahead of perfecting the rough edges and making printers run much smoother with fewer glitches and errors. Plus, 3D printing is expanding, taking over new fields of studies, like medicine, bioengineering, construction, etc. So let’s take a closer look at this process and see what is in store for the next decade or so.

What is additive manufacturing?

The basic principle of additive manufacturing is behind all FDM 3D printers, as well as construction printers, future bioprinters, etc. What it means, is that the device adds the material gradually in thin layers, until the whole shape is complete. The most common table-top cheap 3D printer uses plastic, some use metal and wood compounds, construction 3D printers use concrete, and bioprinters use biomaterial, but the basic principle in all of them is additive manufacturing.

Where is 3D printing used today?

3D printing has won our hearts because it’s an efficient and elegant process of materializing our designs, thoughts, and ideas. And it doesn’t even matter if you know 3D design, or you’re new to the whole process. There are plenty of ready models out there on the internet. You can download the one you like and print it. So let’s see where 3D printing is used when it is outside of our living rooms!

  • Industrial manufacturing. It takes a lot of time and money to manufacture things. We know that, right? We need a machine that can produce a certain range of models, and the time of production is very costly. A 3D printer does take time with a large-scale model, but the process is not that costly. In some cases, using a 3D printer will cut the cost in half.
  • Design. This is self-evident, isn’t it? If a 3D printer can create models within a certain size-range, without virtually any constructional limitations, it’s going to be used in Art, Design, and similar fields of human interest. For many artists, it’s a preferred way of channeling their creativity and designing something unique and out of the ordinary.
  • Medicine. The strongest suit of 3D printing is an individual approach to each print.  This comes in handy in the medical field, for printing things like prosthetics. Ideally, they have to be created for each person individually, and that’s when 3D printing can make a great difference. Printed prosthetics can be much cheaper than the standard ones, and they can be featured to fit each person’s needs. We fail to see the downside.

Where is 3D printing headed?

The list above is just a small fraction of what 3D printing can be useful for, but the most important question for today is where is it headed? The most exciting trajectory for us is bioprinting and construction printing. The latter is already happening. The process is gradual of course, but there are many successful prototypes already available on the market. Great big 3D printers that exert concrete to build affordable housing for families and whole communities on the brink of disaster. This initiative can potentially change the way we think about building homes and solving the housing crisis.

The second and the most exciting branch is bioprinting, which is still not fully developed, of course, but there’s a lot of research indicating that this is actually possible to achieve in a rather short span of time. Today it sounds mind-boggling to think that we can print tissue and organs. That would solve the tremendous crisis we have with donor organs. The majority of organs that could actually reach patients are not viable. But with bioprinting we can turn that around and save people who typically don’t live to see their turn on the recipient list.

Whatever the future holds, we are sure 3D printing has a big role in perfecting many fields like medicine, construction and manufacturing. This technology is just starting its journey and has many more surprises for us in the near future!

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