3D printing, a fast-rising manufacturing technique, involves adding layer upon layer of a material to for a three-dimensional object. These can range from plastics, metals, and ceramics to more esoteric materials like living cells from a human body.
The 3D printing process has both a software and a hardware component. 3D printers that use XY gantry stages or split-axis (SAX) gantry systems for motion control are employed alongside a computer-aided design to complete the additive layering process. This type of technology enables the accurate translation of the printing head, and fulfills the requirements of 3D printing for high-precision, high-cycle, and highly configurable machineries.
Happily enough, 3D printing is no longer a niche technology. A number of industries have already explored the additive manufacturing procedure,and are seeking new ways to transform their products and services around it. This makes it possible for some clever and unexpected applications of 3D printing to emerge. Here are just a few examples of them:
3D printing technology is a welcome innovation in the field of medicine, as even living cells can be additively layered on artificial scaffolds to mimic human organs. In the future, these can be used more widely for organ transplants. Other ways that the medical field can benefit from 3D printing is through the construction of prosthetics, or in the building of detailed 3D models of the human body for anatomical studies.
On a related note, 3D printing can prove a boon for laboratory work being done in the other scientific disciplines, such as in molecular chemistry. It’s now possible to print out 3D models of chemical structures that depict chemical reactions from all angles, better helping chemists visualize and understand the core of their work.
Architects, engineers, builders, and interior designers can utilize 3D printing technology to build accurate, to-scale, and highly-detailed models for their projects. Moreover as in the case of a project like the WikiHouse, it’s possible to open-source the blueprints of 3D-printed parts of a house. That means that a structure can be easily replicated and built by those who have access to the construction plans and 3D printing kit.
The maritime industry
3D printing technology can also supplement the maritime industry and add an edge to the technological capacity of shipbuilders. 3D prototypes of boats can be easily designed, printed, and replicated, also cutting the costs of testing and construction.
Robotics is another particularly exciting field for 3D printing. Because the technology can help efficiently design and replicate new mechanical parts, prototyping will be a faster, smoother, and easier process.
This isn’t to say that 3D printing technology will be limited to the sciences and to manufacturing. On the contrary: in the near future, schools can start investing in learning tools for their students that are constructed via 3D printing—such as 3D maps for geography classes, or product prototypes for IT and entrepreneurship classes.
3D printing can also be applied in the textile industry, and transform how business is done in the fashion world. It will be easier to test out clothing dimensions and fabric types. 3D-printed objects like shoes can also be made out of materials like flexible plastic.
Photography is another area that looks to prosper in brand-new ways because of 3D printing technologies. One cool application is that of the large-format camera, which can magnify 3D-printed images by as much as 15 times from the original 35mm range.
Research platform Markets and Markets predicts that the value of the 3D printing industry will burgeon up to USD 33 billion, due to its role in lowering manufacturing costs, customizing machining processes, and instigating new technological innovations. Thus, 3D printing as we know it is very well on its way to becoming a fixture of our everyday lives.