Three-dimensional printing is a remarkable technology that is sure to change the world as we know it. In fact, it has already affected things in some big ways. People are making items for a lower price than ever before with 3D printing, and some are even creating things that were not even possible prior to the invention of the recent technology.
So how did 3D printing come to be? What are some examples of the amazing technology’s huge potential? Read about that and more below.
1. What 3D printing is
The process of 3D printing is a complicated one, but here is an attempt to sum it up: a virtual design is made in a file that either uses a 3D modeling program to create something new or a 3D printer to duplicate something that already exists. The software for 3D printing “slices” the design into hundreds or thousands of separate layers. The 3D printer will then blend all those layers together into one physical object.
2. A brief history of 3D printing
It has been around for decades, but until recently, the only 3D printing option was industrial printing. Industrial 3D printing was mainly used in the creation of prototypes with a technique referred to as rapid prototyping. The industrial 3D printers cost tens of thousands of dollars, but they were indispensable to companies in need of rapid prototyping or manufacturing, and it was a quick way to produce a relatively small number of products in a short period of time.
What’s known as either personal or domestic 3D printing started around 2011. Rapid development in the industry has led to less expensive 3D printers priced at $250 for the simpler versions to $2,500 for the high-end ones. The hobbyist market really gained ground with open-source 3D printing projects. Thanks to those, anyone could put together their own 3D printer and have access to a large number of designs, making the process extremely appealing to a wide number of consumers.
It isn’t just for fun, though; 3D-printing technology is expected to make an impact in the developing world by making it cheaper and easier to dispense crucial resources to people who are in desperate need of them.
3. Applications of 3D printing
Among its many other potential uses, 3D printing can be utilized for such things as architecture, healthcare, education, creativity, retail, and general entertainment.
4. Stunning examples
Some things you can use 3D printing for are to improve a living situation, improve lives, and even save lives. As this article from IFLScience explains, a man named Andrey Rudenko printed a small castle with concrete through the magic of 3D printing. He hopes to expand to building medium-sized houses more affordably with the power of 3D printing.
The tool is also commonly used to create prosthetics. Check out this delightful piece from the Huffington Post (which includes a video) about an adorable dog who was able to run for the first time because of some high-tech three-dimensional printing.
Beyond even that, though, 3D printing is literally saving lives. A newborn baby’s complex surgery was made easier when doctors were able to print out a 3D version of the little patient’s heart. With that to study, the surgeon only needed to do one (successful) surgery.
It’s amazing all that 3D printing has accomplished in its relatively short existence. That list of feats will only grow as scientists and developers further expand the potential of the incredible devices. Be warned that some of the changes might not necessarily be good (consider its possible impact on employment; I doubt it will take as many people to build a 3D printed house than one made by hand) but it’s still going to be incredibly exciting to see where the technology goes next.
Featured photo credit: 3D Printer at the Fab Lab/Keith Kissel via flickr.com