3D printing has many applications from home and learning use through to high end science and medical development. 3D printed medical devices and prostheses have already been used in humans and it won’t be long until your dentist implants your new tooth that was printed in the room next door in the clinic.
In fact it won’t be long until most things we use every day will either be printed or consist of some components that are were made using 3D printing . 3D printers are even able to print themselves. Well, print the parts that are used to make up the printer. Now, that is one to get the head spinning a bit. 3D printing will have many applications that will make lives significantly better. Medical scientists have already been able to print the scaffolds for human organs. These scaffolds will in time act as the structure in which a patients cells can be used to grow into a replacement organ. Just imagine what this will do for patients that will no longer have to wait for years for a kidney or heart
transplant. 3D printing has already had medical impact with prostheses printed to personal configurations for patients and printed artificial bones transplanted into patients with hip failure. 3D printers have even been used to print artificial exoskeletons to assist patients in movement. 3D printing has also
been used in the animal kingdom for prognostics. One for tugging at the heart strings involves buttercup the duck who was born with one foot pointing in the wrong direction. Thanks to a 3D printed silicon foot, Buttercup is now able to do what all his duck friends do. The next car you buy will also likely have at least some of a 3D printed history. Both General Motors and Ford have used 3D printers to test prototypes of car components. Anything from cylinder heads to air vents have been prototypes for subsequent testing of efficiency and air flow. There is even an automotive company busy developing an entire car which will be 3D printed. All of these applications in 3D printing are not just for the sake of using a new toy. 3D printers have allowed for improved manufacturing efficiency and lower costs. It means that costly bespoke or reconfigured machinery no longer has to be used and the materials used for prototyping can be significantly lower cost than what was used in the past. Ultimately 3D printing is now shortening and lowering costs of development of many new industrial items from cars through to computers.
Fortunately the speed of 3D printing and the low costs of printing and input material have filtered down to all of us and we are able to have one off items printed off quickly and at relatively low costs. It means that we can become hobby designers of jeweler, toys, 3D art or even houses and buildings. Once we have our designs, we can then simply take our digital file to our local 3D printer and within a day or two have our imagined design sitting on our mantel piece or being played with by our kids. In the near future your visit to the dentist and having a printed tooth inserted will be followed by a cup of coffee in a mug you printed out yesterday.