3D Printing Today and Tomorrow
I chose to do my research paper on 3D printing, were we are today and what the future looks like. While researching this project I learned that 3D printing has been around since the 80’s, and that it is also known as additive manufacturing. I chose this topic for a few reasons; first off this is a topic that has interested me fo a while now and I enjoy learning more about it. I believe this technology is going to have a huge impact on our future, like the computer, and the internet it will change the way we do things. I like that its impact is not limited to one area. I highlight in my project seven different areas that 3D printing is already being used and is reshaping those industries.
One of these industries is architecture, construction, and engineering. Architects are using 3D printing to save time when putting together their scale models. In the future there will be no limitations to their designs; the reason for this being that construction companies are now experimenting with 3D printing to build parts of buildings. They have started to print using concrete and have been able to print up some wild angles and designs. These were difficult to pull off before because it was hard to make the form to pour the concrete. In the future architects and project managers will be able to work together and print sections of a building in one location, then move and assemble on sight. Just like architects, engineers are using 3D printing to print up scale models of their designs. With the advances in this technology they are able to print these items with moving and working parts.
Another one of these industries is the automotive and aerospace industry. In the automotive industry, designers will be able to print up models. Auto makers have also been able to print parts, and have successfully printed a whole working car. In the future 3D printers will be more common in the average home, because of this consumers will be able to go online and print up certain types of replacement parts. This will be nice especially when it comes to hard to find or dealer only parts. The same will go for the aerospace industry as far as being able to print models, and replacement parts. NASA will be launching a mission soon were they will be sending a 3D printer in to space, and they will test printing in zero gravity. If they are successful this will mean that they can put a 3D printer on their shuttles and print parts in space. This will cut down on the weight in the shuttles when they launch but still allow them to print supplies while in space.
The Military is using this technology the same way. They have started testing 3D printing while in the field. Just like the aerospace industry, the ability to print in the field will cut down on the amount of supplies they have to carry. It will also give them the ability to print and repair vehicles and machinery while out in the field. There are a few problems when it comes to this industry, the main one being weapons. Fully functional guns have been printed, they have done this using materials other than metal. The government and DOD has made it illegal for anyone to print guns, and they have ordered all open source instructions to be removed from the internet. However officials fear that the problem will be that just like music, movies, programs, and other online files that are shared it will not keep these plans out of the hands of people who really want to get them.
An exciting industry that this technology is changing is the medical and dental field. Dentist are already using this tech to print dentures using x-rays and scans to perfectly match the patience. In the medical field they have successfully printed bone fragments, more specifically part of a skull and a human jaw bone. Doctors have used these items in patents. In China they have developed a printer that uses human cells. This was made with the intent to one day print human replacement organs. The thought behind this is they would be able to print an organ using your DNA, therefore your body would not reject it, and you would not have to wait as long for a transplant. Doctors have successfully printed a working heart valve, and they expect the FDA to approve usage of these within the next year. The current method is to use heart valves from pigs, and those only have a 3year lifespan, again by using your cells and DNA to make these parts your body will accept them and they will last longer.
I was surprised to hear that this tech is being used in the fashion industry. Designers are using this to print wild looking clothes, shoes, head ware, and jewelry. As printers become more common in our households we will be able to do the same. Imagine being able to go online to a designers web site or even designing your own clothes and printing them up at home. The other nice thing would be the ability to print clothing and accessories that are a custom fit to you.
I read an article were a history teacher in Europe used 3D printing to print replicas of ancient Egyptian artifacts so that he could give his class a more hands on approach to learning. I thought how awesome the possibilities will be for education, they will be able to use it for everything from printing supplies to doing what this teacher did and giving students the ability to observe items that we normally would not be able to touch. This would also open up learning opportunities to teach people how to design and use this technology. The opportunities will be endless, especially for the trade schools that deal with architecture, engineering, automotive, art & design, culinary, and many more.
The culinary industry was another industry I was surprised to find this tech, however it does make sense. 3D printing is being used now to make elaborate food designs using semi liquids like chocolate and cheese. They are also able to design and print molds for gelatins, and cakes. Just like in the medical field scientist hope to be able to use bio printers to print food like meats, fruits, and veggies. I am not sure how ready we are to eat 3D printed food, but who knows in the future this may become the norm.