You have probably have heard some buzz lately in one form or other regarding 3D printing. While just entering the consumer market in the form of user friendly computer software and actual printing equipment, this technology has been used in manufacturing across various industries for a couple decades! What does this mean for the general public having access to such technology and how will your life be altered directly or indirectly with the use of 3D printing?
Applications of 3D printing are developing on a daily basis with new uses and benefits that are the result of innovative users and designers. The objects created are revolutionary in how they will impact or everyday lives as well as development in the material sciences. Items can be lighter, stronger and more cost effective which ultimately has the potential to impact society on the individual level. While there are many emerging applications, 3D printing has been found to be most prevalent in what we already do.
- The way we create –
3D printing allows the professional engineer, designer and even the hobbyist the opportunity to conceptualize, draft and create real life objects with a few clicks. If you can dream it more than likely you can print it. For the hobbyist, detailed models of cars, planes and architecture can easily be designed and rapidly created. Children are also into using a technology where they can actually create and print their favorite toys!
- The way we eat –
There has been some exploration of “manufacturing food” in the sense that food pastes are deposited and formed using a special printing method. By using a food in paste form, the paste Is deposited through a nozzle, like a pipette into layers. This allows the chef to explore new culinary delights not only for taste, but for presentation design.
- The way we travel –
3D printing allows designers to integrate new features that would not be possible using traditional forms of manufacturing. For example; complex cooling passages for engines, reduced component weights for bicycles and quicker production times. These special features have the potential to make the products and services we use daily more efficient, thus increasing the affordability of those items. 3D Printing is currently used for making some jet engine components in the aerospace industry!
- The way we govern –
With any new technology there is concern about how it will be used and how it should be controlled. In the case of 3D printing there is growing concern regarding the manufacture of illegal firearms that cannot be traced by traditional methods. Lawmakers are working to develop new laws that would restrict this type of activity. Such laws make it illegal to print objects (knives) or assemblies (firearms) in attempts to reduce free production if these items.
- The way we heal –
A large driving force behind 3D printing technology is in the medical field where printing is used to harvest anything from blood vessels to heart valves and in some cases complete human ears. Printing is not only limited to surgical related needs as prosthetics that are better suited for the patient can be produced inexpensively.
3D printing is beginning to shape our everyday lives more and with each passing day as the technology evolves. With that evolution comes great potential to benefit each other and those in need by providing cost effective solutions. There is also a shared responsibility of those who have the means to use the technology to do so in an ethical manner.