3D printers are like something out of a sci-fi movie. Right before your eyes, they create physical objects out of thin air. They can even print living tissue! This isn’t movie magic, it’s real life.
6.3 million 3D printers are expected to be shipped in 2020. It’s safe to say these revolutionary machines have captured the world’s imagination.
But what can you do with a 3D printer? With so many creations at your fingertips, it’s hard to know where to start. To give you some inspiration, we’ll show you what some of the world’s biggest industries are doing with this technology.
What Is 3D Printing?
Before we delve into the incredible creations that these machines produce, let’s take a quick look at what 3D printing actually is.
3D printing is the process of creating a physical object from a computer-generated model. Normal printers work in rows, laying down ink to create the desired design. 3D printers move along an X and Y axis, drawing a pattern.
Unlike normal printers, this pattern is normally drawn with plastic instead of ink. More plastic is added, one layer at a time, to form a 3D structure.
The reference models are created in CAM or CAD computer programs. Then they are digitally sliced into hundreds, or even thousands, of layers. This file gets sent to the 3D printer where the object is printed, slice by slice. 3D printing technology has opened up a whole new world of customization.
3D printed food may not sound that appetizing, but 3D printers have produced many culinary delights. They mold and extrude raw ingredients into exciting and unconventional shapes.
3D printed cakes, pastries, pizzas, pancakes, and even edible wedding cake toppers have been produced.
Archaeologists have used 3D printing technology to replicate or repair ancient artifacts. The Triumphal Arch of the Temple of Bel was destroyed when ISIS invaded Syria. Archaeologists used 3D cameras and printers to rebuild the monument, preserving an important piece of history.
3D printing has allowed paleontologists to duplicate bones and fossils. This means that a fossil found in Africa, for example, can be 3D printed and studied by paleontologists from all around the world.
Paleontologists test their theories about how dinosaurs’ bodies moved and functioned by rebuilding their bone and muscle structures using 3D printed models.
Dinosaur fossil models are available online to be downloaded and printed at home. Build your own Jurassic Park today!
Architects are always looking for innovative ways to build houses faster and cheaper. 3D Printers enable architects to build conceptual models of their designs in a fraction of the time.
Some companies have even built full-size 3D printed houses! This revolutionary building method allows homes to be built quickly and sustainably at an affordable price.
3D printers are also used to create lamps, sculptures, and decorations. These are printed with all sorts of interesting materials including PLA, cement, nylon, wood, and metal. Get those creative juices flowing and design some eye-catching artwork for your own house!
Car manufacturers were among the first to use 3D printing. 3D printing has sped up design and production, allowing for on-demand manufacturing of components. The automotive industry uses 3D printers to create tools, jigs, fixtures, and parts for new and used cars.
Hobbyists often run into trouble when restoring old cars. The parts required are often no longer in production. 3D printing has solved this problem. Classic cars, like this Delage Type S Grand Prix car, can get a new lease of life using custom-printed parts.
Believe it or not, 3D printing is even making waves in the fashion industry!
Fashion reached new heights through a group of architects re-inventing shoes with 3D Printing. They created a range of high heeled shoes, printed using Nylon and soft rubber. The versatile nature of 3D printing allowed the designers to sculpt elegant shapes and patterns into the shoes.
3D printed jewelry is also causing a stir. Traditionally, jewelry is either handcrafted or molded using long-wax casting. Long-wax casting is a painstaking process where the design is slowly carved into wax, forming a mold.
3D printing allows molds to be created in a matter of minutes. Designers can easily replicate and edit the design.
3D printing also allows jewelers to create prototypes for customers. This ensures the design and fit are correct before the final product is made. Alternately, you can skip the mold altogether and print a piece of jewelry straight from a 3D design!
One of the most ground-breaking aspects of 3D printing is its medical applications.
Great advancements are being made in the field of prosthetics using 3D printing technology. These prosthetics are customizable, lightweight, and quicker to produce than standard prosthetic limbs.
Prosthetics for children cost thousands of dollars and have to be replaced every few years as the child grows. 3D printed prosthetics can cost as little as $50 dollars.
Projects like Enabling the Future use 3D printers to create bright and cheery prosthetic hands for children in need. To date, they have created over 8,000 free arm and hand prosthetics.
Scientists have also developed “bio-ink”. “Bio ink” is artificial live tissue that can be used in a 3D printer. Bioprinting has been used to produce functional bones, muscles, artificial organs, and even new skin for burn victims.
What Can You Do With a 3D Printer to Improve Your Life?
When it comes to 3D printing, the world is your oyster.
The question is no longer ” what can you do with a 3D printer?” but rather, “What can’t you do?” From refining manufacturing processes to printing a wallet, the possibilities are endless.
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