Undeniably, 3D printing has revolutionised a number of different industries over the last ten or so years.
Firstly, it pretty much rewrote the book on prototyping products. Speaking to designers and creators Prototype Projects, they explained that “this excellent and ever developing technology has really brought prototyping to the masses.”
“Before 3D printing, prototyping was a slow, expensive process, only available to a small number of people.”
“Now we can create large numbers of prototypes at a quicker rate, cheaper than ever before, meaning more and more businesses can adopt a trial and error approach to their new products, making development quicker and less time consuming.”
Secondly it has made big strides in medical mechanics, easing the development of quality prosthetics, producing bone and structural replacements and even surgical aids for improved diagnoses.
This in depth post from 3D Printing Industry gives a great overview of all these uses and more.
While it is clearly making waves in a number of industries, the real question is what can we expect from it in the future? Well to explain the possibilities, here are just a few of the potential developments on the horizon.
Localised Home Printing
As seen in prototyping, car manufacturing and aerospace engineering, 3D printing has really moved on from its early base of creating mainly plastic objects. Now a whole host of materials can be subject to its ruthlessly precise creation.
This means that 3D printing can be used to make more practical and ready to use objects, not just models or prototypes.
One of the most popular ideas for the future of 3D printing suggests that eventually every street corner or even every home will have its own 3D printer, enabling everyone to print off products in the comfort of their home, cutting out a trip to the shops or an Amazon order.
In an article on Smithsonian, publisher of Make magazine Dale Dougherty described this potential development as like having “Wal-Mart in the palm of your hand”, a fairly conclusive comparison.
The idea would be that you could make an order online or through a system linked to your printer, pay for an item, and print it off entirely complete in the comfort of your home.
This could range from a new phone case to a spare part for your washing machine and so on, essentially as it develops, the sky’s the limit.
Printing on Location
Not dissimilar to the suggestion that we could print items in the home, is the idea that it will be used on location in more professional capacities.
NASA have also already tested a 3D printer on the International Space Station, which will print spare parts for the space station, saving the obviously much more expensive journey of a few astronauts and a rocket.
Another concept of 3D printing picking up steam is one involving construction. Research by a number of institutions including Loughborough University suggests that 3D printing will soon play a big hand in developing our concrete structures.
This could be a fantastic development for both architects and builders alike, as it will presumably allow for more versatile and precise design of stone structures.
This in turn will give architects even more creative and inventive licence for their planned structures, and will also help construction teams create a safe, stable structure.
3D printing is one of the fastest developing technologies on the planet, so quickly that it is hard to predict what is next because of the sheer amount of ideas circulating.
One thing we know for sure is that these three potential developments are going to be very exciting and if they work half as well as they suggest, our lives will be a lot better off as a result.