Technology

01/02/2015

3D printing: What can we expect in 2015?

3d print

The advancement of 3D printing technology has been out of this world…literally. Last November, NASA astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore created a 3D ratchet wrench while aboard the International Space Station. This is only one of the many impressive feats made through 3D technology, a technology that has yet to reach its potential.

So what’s the potential?

What 3D Printing Technology Has Done So Far

Back here on Earth, the technology has done even more amazing things in a wide range of industries. In the medical field, there’s a replica of a human heart made through 3D printing that could help save the lives of millions of babies worldwide. These replicas are exact in detail of a baby heart and give surgeons a better understanding of the organ, where to cut, remove and patch areas needed to save a baby with congenital heart defects.

Like Wilmore’s space ratchet, other businesses have used this disruptive technology to boost supplies. This technology doesn’t only benefit business owners and investors, as it can also be available to the individual inventors, according to Apple Rubber’s blog. This technology gives the “average joe” a shot at making his own prototype for as little as a $1,000, which presents equal opportunity. Thanks to this surprisingly affordable technology, big business doesn’t necessarily mean you need big money to get started.

3D printing is a viable manufacturing method for conventional items and can create toys, entire vehicles, architecture and even military tools and weapons. But now researchers are demonstrating 3D printing on a micro-level, printing nanostructures fully composed of graphene using 3D techniques. The nanoscale 3D printing development, according to Nanowerk.com, exploits a size-controllable liquid meniscus to create 3D-reduced graphene oxide nanowires (different from traditional 3D printing, which use filaments or powders as printing materials). This approach allows for fine-printed structures, resulting in the manufacturing of nanostructures.

Changing the World

As prices drop and these applications expand, the prediction of world change is that manufactured goods will be more readily available in or near major shopping areas. For example, there are currently only 10 major car manufacturers in the U.S.; however, with this technology, professor Richard A. D’Aveni of Dartmouth College told the Harvard Business Review that manufacturing could expand to every big city. Car parts can be made at dealerships or repair shops, while the need for management of supply chains could be eliminated at assembly plants by making parts and materials as needed.

ExplainingtheFuture.com predicts that printing the goods we need will soon only require the purchase of an app. Soon we may rely on 3D printing to produce spare parts and recycle broken items that can be fixed through this technology, which would cut down on waste. Expect to see high-rise buildings produced by 3D printing as early as this year. And bioprinting? We’ve only scratched the surface. Thanks to 3D printing, the future lives saved through the printing of organs and skin grafts are immeasurable.

While some find it controversial, researchers who continue development of this technology only further convince skeptics that the benefits far outweigh the risks.






 
 

 
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