3D PRINTING IS THE GREATEST THING IN THE WORLD
We know, we know, it's a bold statement. But let's think about this. The materials we use to make things have always defined man's journey. The Stone Age, The Bronze Age, and the Iron Age are all prime examples. But a new age is now upon us.
3D printing is getting more advanced and promises a ‘mini factory' in every home. It has enormous potential to change the world and every business – even yours.
Most people are vaguely familiar with 3D printing. They've seen it in action, probably making little ornaments, or even digitally printing someone's face. But fewer people are aware of what it's really being used for and it's true potential. 3D printing isn't about creating decorative chintz. It's about creating artificial organs, saving billions and revolutionising entire industries.
Here are five ways 3D printing is changing the world and some predictions for where this strange new material is going to take us. Behold the true power of the 3D printer.
SCI-FI FOOD NOW
Remember Star Trek's instant meal synthesising replicator? Pure sci-fi fantasy, right? Not anymore. Don't scoff, but 3D printed food is actually already here and could be invading your kitchen or restaurant anytime soon.
The technology isn't just creating fancy, Heston Blumenthal style objects, to liven up your plate. ‘Additive manufacturing technology' has the potential to address big problems, including the global food crisis and malnutrition.
Scientists are still perfecting the ‘recipe' but there are alreadysome early adopters out there. The world's first 3D printed restaurant, Food Ink – opened its doors in July 2016 and now has branches in London and Berlin. The U.S military is also planning to use 3D printed food to customise their soldier's nutrient intake, Scientists now believe the technology could also be used to feed starving people in world's poorest nations.
Let's be honest, processed food gets a bad press, but just imagine a world free from hunger or nutritionally balanced snacks at the press of a button. Boldly going where no man has gone before indeed.
BETTER THAN BIONIC BODY PARTS
Few things are more important than food, but your body is one of them. You might have seen 3D printed ears or noses, produced to replace expensive prosthetics, but these aren't the only ways our bodies are benefitting from 3D printing.
X-rays and CAT scans can only tell us so much. They lack information on depth and weight which can cause complications when invasive surgery is required. Many surgeons are starting to ditch them like a used pair of surgical gloves, in favour of 3D printed models. Such models not only add another dimension but also allow surgeons to practice on the model itself, gaining a clearer insight into the best way to achieve a successful operation.
3D PRINTED HOMES
Now we had to read this a few times ourselves, but that's right, we mean homes. Not doll houses. Not dog kennels but real, life-size human homes. In fact, it's already been done. Expect the future of housebuilding could look very different.
Beijing-based Huashang Tengda used giant 3D printers and special reinforced concrete to build a two-storey villa, in one go in just 45 days, requiring a fraction of the usual manual labour and time required. Waiting months to move into your brand new home could soon become a thing of the past.
(Video: World's first 3D-printed house that can withstand 8.0-magnitude quake)
SAVING THE SPACEMEN
Picture this. You're on a spaceship, about to enter Mars's atmosphere, working to colonise human the human race. Something goes wrong. You could fix it, if only you had the right tools. But the nearest tool is 249 million miles away.
It could take months and millions of dollars to get you that tool. Let's face it, you're doomed. Sayonara. Nice knowing you. But imagine you have a 3D printer with you. Making tools on the spot could save time, money and many lives.
This is already happening, but a bit closer to home. 3D printing is changing the face of manufacturing and collaborative design, shrinking lead times, leading us towards simpler mass personalization and creating previously impossible to manufacture goods. The possibilities really are out of this world.
STEM CELLS, BABIES, KITTENS, AND CHOCOLATE
The more you read about the possibilities of 3D printing the more it blows your mind. Picking the 5th and final contender for the list was really hard. So we didn't. Instead here's a quick-fire round-up of the implausible sounding, but completely possible uses of 3D printing today.
NASA debuted a 3D pizza printer at SXSW in September 2016. They're not wasting their funding, it's ‘for astronauts' – honest. Fasotec, a Japanese 3D printing company are making those fuzzy ultrasound fetus scans look (even) worse by printing 3D replica models to keep forever instead. Not creepy at all.
A Heriot-Watt University researcher believes animal testing could be obsolete in five years as his modified MakerBot printer, which spits out micro-tissues and organisms, could eventually provide more accurate and less cruel results. Great news for the animal world, except if you're a cat. Because printing 3D cat replicas instead of owning a real one, is now a thing and so is making 3D printed chocolate. The Stone Age, The Bronze Age, The Ice Age, they're all good, but what did they do for chocolate? Nothing.
Whilst some uses of 3D printing err on the wacky side and others, as in the case of 3D printed guns, err on the downright negative. The potential ability to finally beat world hunger, build better homes more quickly and even aid in man's mission to live on after our own planet dies, makes 3D printing the most exciting thing to happen in the world – and the world of business – today. Welcome to a new dimension.