3D printing has been in the news quite a bit lately, which is surprising. It’s definitely a newsworthy practice, but it’s strange that 3D printing is just now gaining real momentum since the capabilities have been around for over 25 years. With the introduction of materials that are easier to produce and manipulate into its arsenal, 3D printing is now becoming widely available in both the industrial and consumer environments. Here is a great video from The Creators Project that explains a little more about what 3D printing is and its capabilities. So which fields will benefit the most from this new technology?
Ever had a part break in the middle of a deadline? Need a prototype for a new product to show your sales force? It’s as simple as Edit>Print. Well, ok it’s not EXACTLY that simple, but manufacturers can now create custom pieces, functional replacement parts and 3D models and prototypes in a matter of hours. This means you no longer have to place an order and wait 7-10 days for creation and shipping, cutting down production times.
Reaching far beyond hard plastic models, the medical world has utilized stem-cell technology and 3D printing to create working organs and human tissue. And 3D printing actually goes beyond revolutionizing organ donation. Prosthetics can now be custom formed for each individual patient and, recently, 3D printing was used to patch a human skull.
Point of sale materials, branded merchandise and product fixtures are now available at the push of a button to anyone with a graphic designer – so basically every creative firm out there. 3D printing lets marketers put real products and prototypes into consumers’ hands faster than ever before. Now instead of flyers and brochures, you can walk away with tangible examples of your pending purchase.
Some students are hands-on learners, and 3D printing helps every teacher create models and recreations instead of just PowerPoint slides. This new technology could also be a huge leap forward for engineering students who could concept, design and create new structures in a matter of hours.
The benefits of 3D printing are as vast as the human imagination itself. Already printing everything from cars to homes, this technology will only continue to expand as materials become more widely available and easier to mold. So I have to wonder what other opportunities are out there for 3D printing. If we can print human organs, could we one day print food and end world hunger? Will printed shelters alleviate urban homelessness? Could I finally print out a pair of sunglasses that don’t make my ears look crooked?
What are ways 3D printing could benefit your industry? Have you had any experience with this technology already?