The 3D printing industry is reaching a more mature stage. The novelty of the technology hasn’t quite worn off, but 3D printing is proving to have many more sophisticated uses than was originally anticipated. Below, we’ve gathered some of the most interesting innovations to come out of the 3D printing industry so far and where the industry is heading in the future:
3D printers have moved beyond plastics; there are now new printers that can process recycled materials. For example, one designer came up with a way to 3D print wet paper fibers. The Paper Pulp Printer is the first 3D printer that uses sustainable materials. It’s strong and durable and provides solutions for avoiding plastic. Plus, it’s considered a closed loop recycling system since those same recycled 3D objects can be further recycled again in the future.
Steel is another material being leveraged in 3D printing processes. For example, a 3D printed steel bridge was constructed to show the potential of multi-axis 3D printing systems. As 3D technology continues to grow and mature, companies may be able to build city infrastructure more precisely and faster.
Ceramics is another material that 3D printing innovators are currently making waves with. “Woven” ceramics allow for structures and objects that have “micro-pores” for air circulation. Not to mention, these 3D printed ceramic sculptures are also worthy of being placed in a museum.
3D printers for food? Yes, you read that right! Company Universal Favourite came up with a 3D-printed mold to create a line of special chocolates. The result? Delicately designed specialty chocolates that look exactly like modern art pieces.
The healthcare industry is being revolutionized by the possibilities that 3D printers are bringing to the table. In fact, some scientists were able to recreate a human heart by capturing fatty tissue and using genetic processes to change them into heart cells. Finally, that biological material was transformed in what they call “bio-ink.”
Although the heart was only about two and a half centimeters big, it proved that bio-printing could one day print viable human organs and other biological structures like teeth. This could prove invaluable to those who wait years on organ transplant lists or have issues with their bodies rejecting their new organ. The scientists who printed the heart found that the organ was also a biological match to the patient—since it’s from the same genetic material, so the patient wouldn’t need to take immunosuppressants. This helps avoid the life-threatening organ rejection that some transplant patients face.
3D printing has shown great potential for growing hair. As thick and strong as bristles you’d find on your hairbrush to fine, synthetic hair you’d find on a wig. Researchers have shown that they can create what they call a “hair fam” which can be transplanted onto a patient for hair restoration procedures.
Many 3D printing companies are working on the nano-scale and creating functioning electronics. Not only do these 3D-printed products show potential for biosensors but they can also be used to lower the price of many kinds of industrial and consumer electronics.
Thanks to the magic of 3D printing, prosthetics can be customized so they better fit the patient who needs it. In addition, there are even prosthetic companies that are making prosthetics for pets.
What if you could just send a print job for a complete home right to a printer? That’s the idea behind 3D printed homes. The startup Apis Cor managed to build a 3D printed home in less than 24 hours. It’s a 400-foot building that cost under $11,000 to build out. In addition, the printer is mobile so it can be moved place to place to build a smarter, cheaper home.
Have you ever wanted to play the violin? What if you could just download one to your computer and print one yourself? Astroprint aims to do just that.
3d-printed objects have grown far beyond just novelty uses. Art, medicine, infrastructure, and the construction business are just a few of the industries being totally transformed by 3D printing. As future engineers and researchers learn more, you can expect new 3D inventions to be introduced and the spread of the technology beyond niche industries.