3D printing is revolutionary, there’s no doubt about it! The capacity for people around the world to create 3D objects from scratch is becoming rapidly more accessible. We are at the point where almost anything that can be designed on a computer can be printed in three dimensions. Everyone from children to doctors and scientists are benefiting from 3D printing.
As 3D printing technology progresses one thing that continues to expand are the materials currently used in this printing–everything from metal and plastic to cement and even live human cells!
Basic 3D Printed Materials
While 3D printing seems like a brand new phenomenon, the process has actually been around for decades. Since the 1980s prototypes and models have been created using archaic versions of 3D printers. What’s changing is that now not only prototypes are being printed, fully functioning products can be produced.
Additionally, the ability for people to access basic materials for 3D printing is becoming increasingly common. The vast resources at our disposal create countless creative outlets–we are only limited by what we can dream up or scan and alter!
a wide array of plastic and acrylic raw materials are available for consumers. Even kids are able to get involved as economic 3D printers for toys are now in existence.
Current glass 3D printers thrive on the physics of molten glass and create designs that are mesmerizingly beautiful. Modern printed glass designs are as attractive as they are intelligent in their design.
Utilizing a capacity for accuracy more precise than even the most veteran potter’s hand, 3D printed porcelain and ceramic objects merge art and practicality. Printed ceramics can withstand temperatures of up to 2500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Everything from precious metals and unique alloys are being used as 3D printing materials.
Printed 18k Gold Keychain via Shapeways
Yep you read that right, food is already being printed using sanitary printing heads. Think about the potential for decorative treats and candies and the concept of fully-printed meals. This will correlate to impressive food concepts like dazzling chocolate models and even fully printed pizzas or burgers.
Pancake printer via 3D Printing
3D Printing the Only 2D Material
Graphene is perhaps the most revolutionary discovery to be made since it was uncovered back in 2004. The world’s thinnest solid has the following properties, all of which make it an extremely promising material:
- The first 2D material with many unique properties
- The thinnest, lightest object ever-only one atom thick!
- The strongest material on Earth: harder than a diamond and 300x stronger than steel
- It is more conductive than copper
- It is transparent and bendable
A printer for creating the world’s first three dimensional objects using the world’s first two dimensional material is truly sci-fi turned reality. It will make all kinds of components thousands of times stronger!
Bioprinting Human Tissues
Some of the most groundbreaking applications for 3D printing have been in the healthcare niche. Earlier this year a team at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine began printing live human body parts, using a combination of living cells and a special gel.
The steps to this process are fairly simple. It all starts with a scanned image of the body part to be printed. Layer after layer, tiny drop by tiny drop, the replacement body part is slowly printed out using a special intricate printer head.
What separates this process from other 3D printed materials is fact that live human cells are used. Bioprinted replacement parts are attached directly to patients and regrow once accepted by the body. These development in 3D printing capabilities are part of a rapid upward curve; a major contributor to the future of healthcare tech. The goal is to print everything from noses, to muscles, to bones.
Large Format 3D Printing
The world is no longer limited to what can be printed in a small desktop sized 3D printer. Large format printer heads can move freely and print massive objects. The sky’s the limit as size constraints no longer exist as serious obstacles to further innovation.
Some commercial planes are now outfitted with air ducts that are 3D printed. This is just the beginning of what will be mass produced for aerospace tech as GE has begun piloting efforts to print engine parts for planes.
3D Printed Buildings
3D Printed House via Business Insider
Entire buildings and structures are being printed in China. What this means is that homes will be printed in a matter of hours instead of being built by traditional methods which may take weeks or months. A video by New China TV explains this process.
Recently, ten structures to be used as office buildings were created from the ground up in only 24 hours using a 3D printer invented by Ma Yihe at WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Company. The walls are printed using a sustainable material made of construction waste and cement. Yihe hopes to print skyscrapers in the future.
Featured photo credit: Maurizio Pesce Flickr via flickr.com