I am sure there might have been that one object in your imagination that you really wanted as a kid, but you knew you wouldn’t find it in a store. There was just no possible way that your imagination-invented object could exist in the real world. Time to change that.
With the limitless capabilities of 3D printing, the coolest object floating around your imagination can become a reality.
What is 3D Printing?
3D Printing, also known as Additive Manufacturing, is printing 3D objects from scratch, layer by layer. A model is designed using a CAD(Computer-Aided Design) software and saved in a file format which can be interpreted by the computer (most commonly STL). Next, the file is sliced and sent to the printer to be printed after all sorts of configurations are done. BUT WAIT? What does the printer use to print?
3D printers use filaments, such as plastic, metal, wood (which is not really pure wood), and many more types to print. These thermoplastics or powdered forms of materials in the shape of filaments are filled into the printing machine to be the material that forms your favourite object.
Now it is important to understand that different types of 3D printers will use different methods to print. FDM printers will use a nozzle to extrude the heated materials out on a bed, while SLA printers will use lasers to harden the materials. There are several others (strongly recommend looking into Rapid Liquid Printing — the coolest of them all) as well but that deserves an article of its own. Too excited? Check this out to find out about the basic types. See this for Rapid Liquid Printing!
What Can 3D Printing Do?
I guess the better question would be, what can’t 3D printing do? From making your own frame of glasses to printing your own house, applications of 3D printing are endless. We are talking about making things from our imagination, from scratch. Imagine that.
3D Printing x Space Tech: 3D Printing can be vital to space technology. One of the major issues with travelling to space is capacity and distance (no kidding). Now, astronauts can 3D print tools, and they might not be far away from having a 3D printed rocket to stay in while their 3D printed habitat is in the works outside.
3D Printing x Construction: Well, since we’re talking about 3D printing habitat on Mars, then why not on Earth? Just like we use filaments to 3d print our favourite toys, how about loading construction material into the 3d printer and build on a larger scale? Its quick, efficient, and opens doors to unreal designs! How close are we to 3D printing a house in 24 hours with only 50% of the cost? How does this affect homelessness? See this super cool video to find out more!
3D Printing x Health Care: 3D Printing organs — hearts, lungs, kidneys? Tissue engineering? Drugs? Prosthetics? Synthetic ears? Casts? Surgical instruments? Biological models? Can? Someone? Stop? Me?
3D Printing x Food: Really? 3D printing food? Well, yes, It’s been done. Not the best cook in the family? Just store the ingredients in a printable form in your 3D printer’s cartridge, use a beginner-friendly program to design your plate and it’ll even cook for you (most likely using lasers)! But think bigger, from cooking for hungry soldiers on the battlefield to helping malnourished individuals, 3D printing can do it all.
3D Printing x 87,923 things … We’re just getting started. There really is so much more, but I am guessing you wouldn’t want to read an article with a 576,243 minute read time (nor do I think I could write one).
Where Do We Stand Today?
While the first 3D printer was invented in the 1980s, 3D printing is relatively a new field. Given how much more there is to explore, the benefits and applications of 3D printing still have produced astonishing results. Industries are just getting used to integrating the technology in their fields.
While it largely depends on several factors such as quality and ease-of-use, 3D printing today is also a bit expensive. While large companies could definitely benefit in the long run by using the technology to create prototypes and models (and also product components themselves), 3D printing might come at a somewhat hefty price for a hobbyist. However, like any other technology, it's getting better every step of the way.
Before You Leave…
I have a surprise for you. You just learned about the incredible power of 3D printing right? Well, it gets better. What if the materials could also transform over time? Jaw-dropping? It's just one dimension better. 4D Printing. That is for another article but I just couldn’t leave without blowing you away yet again.