How 3D Printing Will Radically Change The World
It is not to be underestimated the technological advancement 3D printing has given to the world. With the total number of 3D printers sold tripling from 2014-2017 and still growing fast, it is predicted that the 3-D printing market will be worth around $30 billion by as early as 2022.
3D printing has the ability to replicate almost anything and is heralded as one of the more promising and wide-reaching technologies, likely to change our world forever. From healthcare to construction, food to art, 3D printing is playing an ever-growing part in our lives.
Why 3D printing over traditional techniques?
3D printing quickly and efficiently replicates and produces items in a way that traditional technology and older methods can simply not keep up with. Creating less waste material and giving an end-product that is usually lighter, more durable and faster to produce, 3D printing leads to cost savings many companies are turning to, in order to sustain their future.
How can it change the world?
Aviation and Automotive
The Aviation and Automotive industries are increasingly using 3D printing ability to allow rapid prototyping.
Taking advantage of the 3D printing benefits to create replacement parts, and parts for test models, designers are often able to reduce the number of individual parts per model, by combining parts that traditional methods cannot. The ability to combine parts that have previously taken many processes to manufacture, either due to materials or techniques, has had huge impacts on their production and labour costs. With the ability to build a complete car or recreate obsolete parts, 3D printing is becoming a valuable tool.
Leading aerospace giants are using state-of-the-art 3D printing technology in the production of aerospace equipment, for building, development and testing purposes. NASA has already progressed the use of 3D printing with Zero-G technology in space.
Scientists in the healthcare industry are already able to create prosthetics, costing far less than their traditional counterparts. Both cost saving and improved production has enabled changes to many more lives than has been possible previously. The ability to create artificial organs for transplant patients has already saved countless lives and is opening up previously unimaginable possibilities in the medical world. It seems that we could see a revolutionary new approach to our medical care and survival rates.
In fact, futurists believe that we are likely to live to over 100 and this will be a completely different experience for us than today. With technology already capable of printing skin, replicating a beating heart and layer by layer limb replacements already theoretically possible, we could find ourselves with a total 3D rebuild keeping us alive for longer.
Many traditional methods of building and manufacturing will become obsolete. With companies turning to 3D printing as the more effective method for producing their previously manual labour intensive parts, it is enabling them to repair and re-create obsolete machine parts and to review their product designs in a way previously not possible.
With 3D printers able to build entire houses more cheaply and less labour-intensive than traditional methods we could find ourselves some years down the line looking at entire 3D created towns and cities.
The growth in 3D printing capability and the versatility that it offers, including the ability to use Selective laser sintering (SLS) to create more robust parts, means more companies are able to manufacture goods domestically. Removing their need to source or manufacture parts and products overseas, allowing them greater flexibility and to gain control of their production timetable and costs. With virtually no waste material and lower miles it could also have a positive impact on the environment.
Food and Agriculture
The ability to recreate food and animals is perhaps one of the potentially more worrying or highly debated capabilities, and one where we may not live to see the full effects. Future generations may not get to see cows in the field, and the full circle of birth to beefburger. In the UK, we have already created the first 3D printed hamburger. With the high cost of farming it is believed that there may come a time when we simply do not raise animals, produce grain and field crops as now, removing the need for many food production facilities. We simply print on demand the food we eat. This could also have an environmental impact, and is a hotly argued topic by ecologists and manufacturers alike.
Whether a wholly man-made food supply is morally or ethically right is a matter of another debate, but one thing is for certain, whether you agree or not the world is changing as a result of 3D printing. Whilst you may not be comfortable with 3D printed food, or the replacement of some of the traditional ways of producing the things we use and consume, many of the other technological advances we are looking at will certainly be of benefit.
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