The Limitless Possibilities of 3D Printing

3D Printing

As stated by its name, 3D printing is a process that creates a three-dimensional object using the information stored in a digital file. Although there are a number of methods that see use in 3D printers, all 3D printing consists of depositing layer after layer of material on top of one another until the desired object has been completed. (1) As a result, it is not just powerful but also versatile, meaning that it promises to become more and more prevalent in the near future.

What Has Airbus Created Using 3D Printing?

One example of 3D printing’s potential can be seen in how one of Airbus’s units has created an electric motorcycle that can be produced using the process, which weighs no more than 77 pounds but can still manage a speed of 50 mph. (2) In part, this was because it was made using an aluminum alloy. However, it should also be noted that its design could not have been brought into existence without 3D printing, which was responsible for the hollow components that made up its hollow structure. This is one more example of how 3D printing can change the way that businesses operate as well as the way that we live, particularly since Airbus is actually taking orders for a limited run of the electric motorcycles at around $56,095 per motorcycle.

Of course, there have been more breakthroughs because of 3D printing. (3) Here are examples:

Windpipe Replacement

One of the clearest examples of how 3D printing can improve the lives of people is its use in healthcare. For example, Kaiba Gionfriddo was born with a weak windpipe, which was a life-threatening medical condition because it caused his bronchus to collapse and his heart to stop beating. However, a professor at the University of Michigan was able to make a custom splint with a 3D printer for him by using information collected from a CT scan of his trachea and bronchus. As a result, Kaiba can breathe because the splint is keeping his bronchus open while also encouraging the proper growth of his respiratory system. Better still, the custom splint is made using a special biopolymer that will be absorbed into his body over a matter of years, thus eliminating the need for another complicated and time-consuming surgery later on.

Human Organs

On a related note, 3D printing is seeing use in the cloning of human organs, which is important because success would mean that people would no longer need to undergo painful and unpleasant treatments to fend off even worse problems while enduring long waits for compatible transplants. In short, 3D printing is being used to create artificial scaffolds which can be coated with living cells in order to guide their future growth, while other efforts are underway to create 3D printers that can save time by laying down both the artificial scaffold and the living cells at the same time. In time, these initiatives could end up saving a lot of lives that would be lost without easily available organs for transplant.

Prostheses

In fact, 3D printing is even being used to create prostheses for both humans and animals. One example is how prostheses made using 3D printing are enabling people to move with the same ease as those without a need for such devices, while another example is how a printed foot has enabled a duck born with a deformed foot to keep up with the other birds in its flock, which is all the more remarkable because it could not have expected to survive out in the wild. As 3D printing becomes better and better, it seems probable that 3D-printed prostheses will become better and better as well.

Car Makers are using it

A number of car makers are using 3D printing for various processes in their revenue-earning operations. For example, Ford is using 3D printers to not just create prototypes for the parts of their vehicles but also manufacture parts for their Explorer and EcoBoost engines. Similarly, General Motors has been using 3D printers to come up with prototypes of parts for their Malibu in an attempt to improve its fuel efficiency by reducing its weight, while a team of engineers headed by a man named Jim Kor is creating a vehicle called the Urbee 2 made using nothing but 3D printing.

NASA Rocket Engines

NASA was willing to trust 3D printing with the components of its rocket engines, which was proven worthwhile when its rocket engine injector passed a hot fire test while generating 10 times more thrust than its predecessors. This is particularly impressive because while it was sized for a smaller rocket engine, it will be able to be scaled up when the time comes for something bigger. However, this was not the sole NASA initiative when it comes to 3D printing, as shown by its intention to send a 3D printer to the International Space Station (ISS). Said machine will be able to print a wide range of tools for the astronauts stationed on the ISS, which should result in a respectable reduction in the number of things that they will have to bring with them whenever they head up into space.

What Are the Implications of 3D Printing?

Given the sheer amount of interest shown in 3D printing, it should come as no surprise to learn that there are more examples of its potential being realized than those that are listed here. Many of these examples are encouraging for the future, though some are more ambivalent in their implications. As a result, while 3D printers promise to bring much positive change to our lives, it could also bring negative change as well. In the end, it is impossible to predict exactly what will happen in the future as 3D printers become not just more powerful and versatile but also more accessible to the average consumer, not least because it promises to affect such a wide range of fields in such a wide range of manners. However, no matter what happens, people can expect 3D printing to play a more and more exciting part in the world.

References:

  1. http://3dprinting.com/what-is-3d-printing/
  2. http://www.csmonitor.com/Technology/2016/0520/Airbus-3D-prints-electric-motorcycle
  3. http://www.forbes.com/sites/amitchowdhry/2013/10/08/what-can-3d-printing-do-here-are-6-creative-examples/#7f68421961b0



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