3D printing is really one of the most amazing manufacturing processes that was developed in recent years. This procedure, which involves the creation of three-dimensional objects through additive manufacturing, is a versatile process that has numerous current and potential applications.
Perhaps, the type of 3D printing that is familiar to most people is the fused deposition modeling variant which normally involves the use plastic filament coils as the building material. The 3D printing machine typically has a platform or print bed upon which the object is printed, which can be heated in order to prevent the product being produced from warping.It also hasa moving gantry system or delta system that holds the cartridge that melts the plastic, as well as the nozzle that extrudes it.
A gantry or Cartesian 3D printer moves the print head along the X,Y, and Z axes with the help of appropriate XY translation stages, while a delta 3D printer has three arms that come together to carry and move the cartridge and printing head through triangulation.
There are many items that can make through the additive manufacturing of plastic. These days, 3D printing is typically employed in order to rapidly develop prototype products, as well as to create a diverse variety of plastic objects—from toys, smartphone cases, and artistic curiosities to industrial components and medical equipment.
Because of its convenience and cost-effectiveness, however, 3D printing also has a whole host of other applications that will likely become more common as the technology develops in the future. Here are some of them.
Human Body Parts
We might not be able to order replacement organs and other body parts on a whim just yet, but this may all change in the near future with 3D printing. The implication of the idea is enormous, particularly for people who have medical conditions, and especially those that require organ transplantation.
In the past, scientists were able to develop various types of body implants made from differentkinds of metals and plastics. 3D printing actual organs and body parts, however, is a different beast altogether. If scientists in the future become capable of manufacturing fully functioning human organs and other important body parts, then there will be no need for patients to wait a long time for donors.
Early forms of this medical application of 3D printing already exists. Tissue engineering and regenerative medicine professionals have already successfully createdboth bioresorbable supports that can be implanted into living tissues, as well as artificial scaffolds upon which living cells can grow, proliferate, and take the shape of the body parts they are designed to replicate.
The food replicator technology as depicted in the TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation is probably as fanciful as it is difficult to reproduce in real life. After all, its basic principle is “reconstituting” matter itself to produce meals, on demand, out of pure energy. That such a device might never be invented anytime soon doesn’t necessarily mean that a similar contraption of convenience can’t exist. That said, we can all probably look forward to 3D-printed food items in the near future.
These days, 3D printed food is still in its early stages, and much of the food we’re able to produce is limited to those we can create from ingredients that can be contained and extruded by printing machines—ingredients like cheese, chocolate, dough, gels, syrups, and sauces. Nevertheless, scientists are now also exploring how 3D food printers of the future can work with long-lasting edible materials that incorporate a perfect balance of carbohydrates, proteins, nutrients, and sugars.
Such a material can be the foundation of 3D-printed food products of the future, which can be used in a range of applications, be it for preparing easy meals at home or for providing appetizing food for space explorers on long-range interplanetary missions.In fact, NASA has even awarded a $125,000 grant to a startupcalled Anjan Contractor in order to explore the feasibility of 3D printing a pizza.
Homes and Cars
3D printing is not just for smaller objects. In fact, researchers today are also studying the viability of producing large objects like houses and vehicles using the same additive manufacturing techniques used in 3D printing smaller plastic objects.This time, however, the materials being usedare concrete and metals.
The ability to 3D print one’s own home or car will greatly liberalize construction and manufacturing, especially when highly affordable or even open-source construction kits are made available to the public. With the help of such kits, a house, for instance can be printed within just a short period of time, all while making it easy for the homeowner or a hired builder to easily install insulation, plumbing pipes, electrical wires, and other elements of a residential dwelling because of the pre-crafted nature of the structure.
Earlier in 2017, Apis Cor, a San Francisco and Moscow-based construction tech startup successfully created the first 3D-printed residential home for less than USD 11,000. In Singapore, the Nanyang Technological University is setting its sights even higher by developing plans for 3D-printed high-rise buildings.
Make no mistake, 3D printing will revolutionize our lives in the near future. This is not just in terms of the way we eat, build structures, and cure ourselves of medical conditions, but in many other aspects of life as well. Only time will tell what other innovative solutions we’ll be able to develop with the help of 3D printing technology.