3D printing has come a long way from the early days of desktop figurines. As technology continues to evolve, the future is brighter than ever.
3D printing, or additive manufacturing, has the potential to democratize the production of goods, from food to medical supplies, to great coral reefs. In the future, 3D printing machines could make their way into homes, businesses, disaster sites, and even outer space. To help you better understand where 3D printing is headed, we discuss 5 likely scenarios in the next five to ten years and beyond where 3D printing can disrupt our everyday lives.
1. 3D Printing Applications in the Medical Field
3D printing technology is going to transform medicine, whether it is patient-specific surgical models, custom-made prosthetics, personalized on-demand medicines, or even 3D printed human tissue, says Jason Chuen, Director of Vascular Surgery at Austin Health and a Clinical Fellow at the University of Melbourne. The new paper, coauthored by Chuen and Jasamine Coles-Black, from the Austin Hospital in Melbourne, appears in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Here are the top areas in which 3D printing is set to change medicine, according to the Chuen.
BIOPRINTING – It sounds like something out of Frankenstein, but could we eventually 3D print human organs? Not exactly, says Chuen. But he’s convinced that in the future we will be able to 3D print human tissue structures that can perform the basic functions of an organ, replacing the need for some transplants.
Scientists are already using 3D printing to build “organoids” that mimic organs at a tiny scale and can be used for research. They are built using stem cells that can be stimulated to grow into the functional unit of a particular organ, such as a liver or kidney. The challenge he says is to scale up organoids into a structure that could boost a failing organ inside a patient.
Such “bioprinting” involves using a computer-guided pipette that takes up cell cultures suspended in nutrient rich solution and “prints” them out in layers suspended in a gel. Without the gel the cells would simply become a watery mess. The problem, says Chuen, is that once inside the gel, cells can die in a matter of minutes. This isn’t a problem for small structures like organoids that can be built quickly and then transferred back into a nutrient solution. But it is a problem when attempting to make something larger like an organ because the initial layers of cells will die before the organ is completed.
“Unless there is some breakthrough that enables us to keep the cells alive while we print them, then I think printing a full human organ will remain impossible. But where there is potential is in working out how to reliably build organoids or components that we could then bind together to make them function like an organ,” says Chuen.
REHEARSALS FOR SURGERY – Studies of surgeons using 3D printed models to rehearse procedures have shown that operations can be completed faster and with less trauma for patients. The potential cost savings and the reduction of surgical errors alone are tremendous.
Chuen and Coles-Black themselves have begun printing out copies of patient kidneys to help surgeons at the Austin in planning the removal of kidney tumors. Such hard plastic models can be made more realistic by printing them in more expensive flexible material such as thermoplastic polyurethane.
CUSTOM PROSTHETICS – As soon as 3D printing began to take off people were quick to see the opportunity for creating amateur prosthetics for their pets—from puppies to geese, and even tortoises. Unlike for humans, there was no mass-supply chain of prosthetics for pets. But mass-supplied prosthetics are likely to be a thing of the past as 3D printing is increasingly used to manufacture prosthetics that are exactly tailored to a patient’s needs.
“For example, with hip replacements, surgeons have to cut and ream a patient’s bone to fit the prosthetic, but in the future, it will be normal to 3D print a prosthetic to fit a patient,” says Chuen. The recent ubiquity of 3D printers and innovations in prosthetic design, manufacturing and distribution offer a viable solution for the millions of people living with limb loss around the world.
In the near future, prosthetics will be seamlessly integrated into people’s everyday lives with minimal effort. New 3D scanning and body modeling technologies from companies such as Body Labs enable people to 3D scan their limbs and have prosthetics modeled after them, making for more natural fitting and appearance.
3D Printing Is Going To Transform Medicine – Click Here for Further Reading
2. 3D Printing and the Construction Industry
One industry that seems to occasionally get overlooked when discussing the additive manufacturing disruption seems to be the construction industry. However, some of the most dramatic changes to the industry in the last 3-5 years, as well as innovation can be attributed to additive manufacturing. 3D printing allows for the creation of products using a quick and cost-effective process. This has opened the gates to new construction methods both on the commercial and consumer side of things, better construction techniques, and even safer construction methods.
3D Printing Is Creating An Entirely New Construction Process
If you see a company use 3D printing to create a series of useful and impressive 3D printing projects, look no further than creative company MX3D. The creative Dutch company utilizes the fascinating process of metal 3D printing and robotics to create a fully functional structure for both the public and commercial projects. With the goal of “introducing the three dimensional solid objects from a digital file”.
One of the coolest projects the team has put together is the MX3D bridge. In short, the team printed a fully functional stainless steel bridge across the Oudezijds Achterburgwal, one of the oldest and most famous canals in the center of Amsterdam. The pedestrian bridge is 12 meters long and features a stunning futuristic design. To construct the bridge the team utilized two industrial robots. Each of the automated robots was responsible for printing their side of the bridge, eventually meeting together in the middle.
There could come a time in the near future, where construction projects around a major city are simply 3D printed with little to no human assistance. Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, 5G technology, and the Internet of Things could make this possible in the next five years.
We Will Have Better Construction Methods
If you have learned anything over the past couple of years, data is as good as gold. Tools based on machine learning and artificial intelligence have allowed humans to make better decisions. Now more than ever, we are able to look at massive amounts of data to build, construct, and design better than ever before. Using these emerging technologies, we will be able to construct even more precisely. Due to some of the unique traits of 3D printing, developers are able to even create optimized atypical design structures to match an individual’s taste or to simply work within an environment.
3D Printing Will Make The Construction Process Much Cheaper
We have said it multiple times throughout the article, 3D printing will make the construction process much easier. First and foremost, 3D printing will help reduce the wasting of materials in multiple different ways. When taking on a 3D printed construction project you use the exact amount of materials needed, rather than using traditional methods like ordering in bulk. Even more so, construction materials can be more easily recycled and used again for another project.
Less manpower is required for a project, cutting down on employee costs. Basically, due to the reduction of injuries, time, and material costs, companies will see a dramatic increase in their profits. The downside to this is that eventually, fewer people will be needed to complete a construction project.
Construction : Building the Future with 3D printers – Click Here for further reading
3. 3D Printing In Outer Space
Building in space rather than on the ground, courtesy of 3D printers and automated assembly, comes with many advantages. You can save volume by sending dense feedstock for 3D printers rather than capacious constructed objects. More importantly, if you don’t have to build to survive the traumatic forces of launch, you can use more fragile designs, and hence less mass.
From manufacturing rocket engines to launch vehicle parts, 3D printing disrupts yet another industry by offering design freedom, reducing weight, and lowering costs. The journey into space commercialization has already begun, and additive manufacturing (AM) is becoming a big part of it. Even the ISS has become a testbed for commercially designed 3D printing technologies.
Building Stuff In Space
Made In Space is a California-based startup that specializes in developing manufacturing tech to be used in space — a task easier said than done. Space isn’t the friendliest of environments for building things (or doing anything, for that matter). For starters, the average temperature in outer space is -457.87 degrees Fahrenheit (-270.15 degrees Celsius), and there is little gravity or pressure.
Just like astronauts can survive the harsh conditions of space thanks to their protective suits, the AMF still functions in space because its parts are encased, letting it print like it would on Earth. AMF can print using a variety of materials, including an aerospace-grade polymer commonly found in spacecraft and rocket parts. And earlier this year, the company also saw its Refabricator installed on ISS, which can use recycled plastic to 3-D print new parts.
A Self-assembling Spacecraft
Now the goal is to build large spacecraft parts. That will require leaving the confines — and protection — of the ISS and moving their 3-D printing operation into the vacuum of space. The undertaking will require the machine to print parts larger than itself and then assemble them. Made In Space claims to have developed a system capable of integrating 3-D printing and robotics to do just that.
The plan is for Archinaut One to travel to low-Earth orbit and then print two telephone pole-sized beams on each side of the spacecraft. As the beams extend out, solar arrays will unfold on their tops that can generate 5 times more power than traditional solar panels on spacecraft of similar size.
If successful, the technology will be a game-changer for space exploration. One of the most significant limitations of space travel is how much stuff you can bring aboard your spacecraft. That’s not a problem if you can just build things you need once you need them. Space 3-D printing would let companies and governments construct complex structures in orbit and reduce the need for astronauts to do spacewalks for repairs.
Further Reading – Self Manufacturing Spacecraft : 3D Printing In Outer Space
4. 3D Printing Food
Eventually, the aim is to have a 3D printer in your kitchen that creates meals for you on demand. With a simple download of a file that includes your nutritional requirements, taste profile, allergy information, etc., this printer would go on to create or print meals in a matter of minutes. And, if this sounds “too out there”, like something only reserved for a science fiction film, today we are here to prove you wrong.
In fact, there are kitchens popping up around the world with the early stages of this technology. Even more so, there are a few printers that you can buy right now that will help you create some tasty dishes.
You Will Have More Customizable Food Experiences
Across multiple industries, one of the greatest appeals of 3D printing is the fact that it is highly customizable to users’ needs or preferences allowing for hyper-customization. The same applies to the 3D printing food industry. In the near future, based on your own biological information, taste preferences, and health needs you will be able to print food that is just right for you. Take a look around the tech/restaurant world and you are beginning to see this come into fruition.
Now, if you do not have a seafood allergy, you probably enjoy sushi from time to time. However, would you ever try 3D printed sushi? The restaurant Sushi Singularity recently made waves with its futuristic, geometric 3D printed restaurant concept in Tokyo, Japan. Launched in 2020, the restaurant uses a customer’s biological samples to build a meal that fills the nutritional requirements of the attendee.
Potential restaurant attendees must submit their information ahead of time before entering the restaurant. When you arrive at the restaurant, a CNC machine, a 3D printer, and robotic arms will prepare your fresh but futuristic sushi sculpture. Expect to eat reimagined 3D printed classics, like salmon, uni, and octopus.
3D Printing Is Helping Us Recycle Food
According to the minds at Genecis, humans waste upwards of $1 trillion worth of food across the world each year. The founder of the start-up, Luna Yu, has one big goal, and that is to take this waste and turn it into something of higher value. Her team from the University of Toronto Scarborough is using food waste to create biodegradable plastics. Using the power of biotechnology, machine learning, and microbial engineering, the team is able to create PHAs, or polyhydroxyalkanoates, that can be used to create more sustainable toys, medical devices, and 3D printer filament.
However, the fun does not stop there. Founded by Van Doleweerd along with Vita Broeken, the company Upprinting takes unwanted and discarded food and uses it to create paste filament that in turn is used to create delicious snacks. This food paste can be stored for extended periods of time and can be used to create a host of dishes.
Further Reading : 3D Printing Your Food : Changing The Way We Eat In the Future
5. Protecting Our Planet
3D printing is also allowing us to use old materials in new ways that are more sustainable. For example, researchers have figured out how to convert carbon dioxide into concrete using 3D printing. Utilizing former waste to create future products makes our society have more efficient consumption. 3D printing innovators are even exploring how to make the process itself more sustainable, including using algae based filaments to reduce the energy necessitated for the printing process. The creative use of materials and production methods opens up new possibilities as we approach climate action and sustainable living.
Trainer Shoes Made From Plastic Ocean Waste
Adidas and Parley for the Oceans have re-thought design and material use in their trainers made from ocean plastic. Environmental organisation Parley for the Oceans have partnered with German sports brand Adidas to create an innovative and sustainable shoe. The upper part of the trainer is made entirely of yarns and filaments from reclaimed ocean waste: the green wave pattern across the shoe uppers is made from reclaimed – and often illegal – gillnets; whilst the rest of the upper is made from plastic collected from beaches.
By cleaning up beaches and removing illegal fishing nets, Adidas and Parley for the Oceans are turning ocean debris into a valuable material for the fashion industry.
Engineers Are 3D Printing Coral Reefs to Help Save Our Oceans
Coral reefs, as we all learned in science class, are remarkably important. They contain the most diverse ecosystems on Earth, and they also protect coastlines from waves and tropical storms, among other things. Sadly, coral reefs are in danger of disappearing, thanks to the combination of diseases, and damage that is caused by climate change, pollution, and other human activities
Such is the case in the Caribbean Island of Bonaire, which is turning to additive manufacturing for help to preserve the region’s fragile coral reefs. The island’s Harbour Village Beach Club has teamed up with ocean preservationist Fabien Cousteau to bring the 3D printing technology to Bonaire’s coasts
For this project, the younger Cousteau will help the island plan and print pieces of artificial coral that will bear the same shape, texture, and even chemical makeup of organic corals to attract floating baby coral polyps and other species that rely on coral reefs for protection, including algae, crabs, and other fish species.
“This technology is less labor-intensive than current coral restoration processes, creating a larger impact in a shorter amount of time,” said Cousteau.
Since the beginning of time the act of creating something using tools is one of the most defining traits of humans. When people look back on the fourth industrial revolution and what was the enabling technology, it’s going to be manufacturing with total freedom.
And with 3D printing, it’s interesting because science fiction really does predict many times real science. In a way that’s what you’re seeing right now – coming full circle. Science fiction becoming science fact. In short, 3D printing is here to stay and will disrupt our everyday lives in the very near future.
3D Printing Is Going To Transform Medicine – https://www.futurity.org/3D-printing-transforming-medicine-1525732/
Construction : Building the Future with 3D printers – https://interestingengineering.com/your-future-home-will-probably-be-3D-printed-how-3D-printing-is-changing-the-construction-industry
Self Manufacturing Spacecraft : 3D Printing In Outer Space – https://3Dprint.com/278887/3D-printing-and-the-future-of-space/
3D Printing Your Food : Changing The Way We Eat – https://interestingengineering.com/3D-printing-will-change-the-way-you-eat-in-2020-and-beyond
Protecting Our Planet – https://goexplorer.org/3D-printed-shoe-made-from-plastic-ocean-waste/
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