What One Thing Do Plastic Pistols, Human Organs, and Engine Parts Have in Common?

Feb 19, 2015

You will soon be able to make them all in your home on a relatively easy-to-use piece of machinery from the comforts of your home.

Welcome to 3D Printing

3D Printing is the process of making a three dimensional object from a digital file. Like any new technology it is extremely hard to gauge the impact this will have on our everyday lives in the future, the possibilities are endless.

How does 3D Printing work?

There are currently a few different ways that companies and individuals are making the digital, tangible. Fused Deposition Modeling is a method of printing that is patented by Stratasys Ltd. that involves layering materials and is currently the most popular form of 3D printing.

Stereolithography uses UV light that is passed over a photosensitive liquid. As the part is being printed it is lowered deeper into the tank for continuous printing. This is by far the sexiest of the 3d printing methods as once the item is finished you simply remove the piece from the bath and it is ready to go.

Selective Laser Sintering is currently the only way to 3D print ceramics and metals. In a process similar to Stereolithography, Selective Laser Sintering substitutes a laser for UV light and uses a powdered material which is bound by the laser depending on the 3D model.

The Future Prospects of 3D Printing

“Explaining The Future” touts that 3D printers will soon work like the simple laser printers we use every day right now. Just like these trusty office companions, 3D printers can be easily connected to a computer but they will have the advantage that they print any solid object.

In a very real sense 3D printing has the ability to change the course of humanity. Manufacturing companies whether in the automobile, hardware, or medical sectors will be able to cut down manufacturing time and costs. The Harvard Business Review recently applauded this innovative technology stating “As 3D printing takes hold, the factors that have made Сhina the workshop of the world will lose much of their force.”

Aerospace is one of the many industries that is already taking full advantage of the 3D printing technology.

3dprint.com has stated their idea of the top five applications where 3D printing can play a vital role. These are:

Aircraft Wings: The American aerospace giant Boeing is working on the possibility to print an entire airplane wing using 3D printing.

Engine Parts: GE, another top American company, is developing engine parts for the world’s fastest jet.

On Demand Parts in space: A solution to the supply chain problem of being in space is currently being developed by Made In Space who are working on zero gravity 3D printers.

Unmanned Aerial Systems: BAE Systems has invested Millions of Euros to develop 3D printed UAVs that can perform rescue operations and monitor dangerous situation. They have also unveiled over 2,000 aircraft engineering concepts in which 3D printing is to be used to develop UAVs.

3D Printing As A Service: An IT Chief Technology officer at NASA, Tom Soderstorm has recently given an interview in which he has praised 3D printing for initiating a whole new process of imagining things. According to him, 3D printing is still in its infancy and will become a lot bigger over the next 15 years. NASA is continuously working to explore 3D printing as a Service for Rapid Pre-Prototyping.

But that is not to say that 3D printing is only used in engineering applications. The following industries are currently developing or already using 3D printers to provide homemade solutions that everyone can enjoy.

Houses

Chinese company WinSun created an apartment building with a 3D printer in January, and last march printed 10 houses in 24 hours. What makes it even more astonishing is the fact that it prints using recycled construction and industrial waste.

Organs

There are many Biotech companies that are working on ways to print new organs for humans. The American company Organovo has already begun selling 3D printed liver tissues for preclinical In Vitro testing.

Guns

In 2012 Defense Distributed  released the plans to a 3D pistol called “The Liberator” which is made of 16 printed plastic parts and a metal nail. It took the American Department of Defense 3 days to remove the plans from the internet but the plans had already been downloaded over 100,000 times.

Custom Prosthetics

Open source project Enabling the Future has created a prosthetic hand that can be 3D printed. This is a simple, accessible solution already being implemented that has in the past cost countless time and energy to fix.

The future of 3D printing is bright and will bring an enormous change in the world. Every day that goes by there are new breakthroughs and we think it is safe to say this is one of the most exciting areas of technology today and the foreseeable future.