Unbelievably, the first 3D printer was created over 30 years ago. However, it is only relatively recently that the technology has been attracting the interest of the media. This is due to the rapid advances in what 3D printers can create. The technology still has a long way to go both in terms of sophistication and affordability, but here are some of the best current uses.
Printing Body Parts
Perhaps one of the most exciting developments in 3D printer technology is the fact that it can now be used to create usable body parts. Scientists in the U.S. have successfully used a modified version called a bioprinter to create bones, skin, kidneys and ears. The technology is still in its infancy, but most scientists agree that it will not be too long before personalized body parts can be created to perfectly match a patient’s needs.
In addition to this, the more typical plastic 3D printers are already being used to create artificial limbs. An arm or leg can be printed in just a few hours and at a cost of less than $100. This makes it far quicker and more economical than conventional methods.
This is another usage which still has a lot of development to go through, but which opens up exciting possibilities. Urbee 2 is the first vehicle which has been created almost entirely using printed parts. Its quirky, futuristic design and the fact that it is not legally road worthy means that we are unlikely to see them on the market within the next few years. However, it seems highly likely that 3D printers are a technology which many of the top car manufacturers will start to utilize in the next few years.
3D printers are highly effective for creating candy and chocolate confectionery, and it is already quite a competitive field. The first chocolate orientated printer, dubbed “Chocedge”, may cost a few thousand dollars but it is reportedly in high demand. If the technology spreads, it is likely that many companies will be using printers to streamline production and omit the need for so many manual workers. Not only will this make the process more efficient, it can save the manufacturers a significant sum of money too.
It isn’t just confectionery companies taking an interest in 3D printers. NASA are funding research into using the technology to create edible items, as it may one day be used to help feed astronauts. One of the challenges has been installing multiple cartridges to produce a variety of tasty foods. For example, one of the earliest printed foods, a pizza, needed a separate cartridge for the topping, the cheese and the dough.
You probably won’t be able to buy printed clothing at any time in the next decade, but it does already exist. Notably, Dita Von Teese was snapped wearing a fully printed gown at an event in New York. However, the cost of such a dress is prohibitive to most people due to the customized nature of the item.
Although 3D printer technology is still in its infancy, there have been some interesting developments. You can expect to see a rise in its use in the near future.