Long-Term Potentials of 3D Printing
Despite being considered a potentially new form of technology, 3D printing is currently shown to have a meteoric rise to the forefront of the mainstream tech world after decades in relative obscurity as a niche manufacturing process.
Considered by several scientific communities as one of the most promising emergent tech processes of our time, it’s been proven that 3D printing has incredible potential to impact the world in a positive way.
However, even though the current generation of 3D printers are already making waves (and have been for quite some time), the full extent of what 3D printing can offer is still to come.
Here are some of the long-term goals and promises of 3D printing.
These include but are not limited to 3D printed kidneys, living skin grafts, advanced prosthetics, dental implants. These examples prove that the potential for 3D printing in the medical field could be actually life changing to say the least.
Despite the numerous challenges faced by researchers in the bioprinting field, one could easily consider the potential payoff if we could successfully manufacture a kidney or heart valve on demand out of the patient’s own donated sample tissues. It would wipe out the danger of rejection for the transplant organ and allow the patient a longer and better quality of life than one would have at present.
2. Small Batch Manufacturing
Though bioprinting is considered to be the most long-term of the potentials listed here, small batch manufacturing is the most immediately viable. 3D printing is already is proven to be an efficient process in the manufacturing sector, by reducing the cost of production while not sacrifice quality or quantity.
Small and newly formed business will no longer need to order tens of thousands of units to make a product feasible, making it that much easier for them to take a risk in the fast paced world of commercial industry.
3. Printable Food
Like bioprinting, this is another arena where the challenges are high, but the potential payoffs are tremendous. Despite this idea being around since the days of Star Trek’s very own food synthesizer machines, today’s food printers are still quite gimmicky, printing simple things like frosting or cookie dough.
The great potential here relies in the possibility that we could one day artificially synthesize products that are either expensive to produce or rare. Meat, for example, is a costly product on a global scale. It takes an inconceivable amount of natural resources to put beef on our tables. It would be a real achievement if someone could figure out how to produce a faithful approximation at a fraction of the cost (and free up vast tracts of farmland in the process).
Again, this is all highly hypothetical, but the potential is there. Interestingly enough, earlier this week NASA funded a grant to advance 3D food printing.
4. Personal Fabrication
The market for personal 3D printing is now growing very rapidly. Despite fulfilling the dreams of some enthusiasts, personal 3D printers are still in a very early stage of development.
Still, many 3D object repositories now provide access to a wealth of free or for-a-free 3D models for download-and-print. In fact, it is already now possible to visit a website such as Thingiverse and to download a model kit or working camera part. These can then be printed out at serviceable quality on a domestic 3D printer.
3D printing is just starting to facilitate a new age of personal fabrication in which anybody can get their digital designs turned into material reality.
5. 3D Artwork
This is perhaps the most volatile of long-term 3D potentials listed here. The art industry has been not shy about using 3D printing as another medium of expression. Since 2005, there have been reports on the possible artistic applications of 3D printing.
This surge of 3D printing in the arts has been building for several years, capped off now by a major art museum’s acceptance of the art-meets-science medium. Just recently, Google wowed the artistic community online by launching the Tilt Brush, revolutionary software that you can create a 3-dimensional masterpiece that you can walk through in virtual reality world.
3D printing technology offers a new and easier medium for artists to explore their creativity in revolutionary ways. It brings creative thoughts to life by bringing together art and technology to produce some novel innovations that can pave the way for a better future.
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