3D printing is one of the most exciting developments in the industry today. Whether it’s printing skin to test cosmetics, bones for replacement surgery or big ticket items like cars or houses, this is an area where absolutely anything seems possible. So, what does the future hold for 3D printing? What are likely to be the next major breakthroughs?
Printing in the office…
It may take a decade or two, but it’s likely that there will be a 3D printer in most offices and homes in the not too distance future, as prices fall and improvements accelerate. This has the potential to revolutionise the way we shop. Imagine you’re lacking a vital piece of stationery, instead of heading to the shops for a new ruler or stapler, you’ll simply buy the rights to print one and produce it yourself there and then.
The wider world…
Everyday uses for 3D printing in offices and homes are just the tip of the iceberg. Industrial uses account for the largest 3D printing market, with sectors such as health, transport and housing experiencing massive developments.
3D printing with plastic has already been used for years to create model prototypes of specialised machine components. As different materials, such as metal, glass and silver, begin to be used it will soon be much easier to print the objects themselves.
The technique has the potential to reduce waste, time and money in manufacturing. It allows interlocking parts to be created, which reduces the need for assembly, while decreasing waste by only using the exact materials required for the manufacturing process. High-end industries are the most likely to invest in 3D printing, creating complex objects with exact precision.
Slovanian house printer manufacturer, BetAbram is currently attempting to create the world’s first 3D printed house (find out more here). If successful, we could see this becoming more common with the pieces of the house being 3D printed and then assembled on site, much like a jigsaw.
Similar to housing, the transport industry is attempting to make history with 3D printing by creating a truly environmentally friendly car. Although eco-cars are already available, the way these are manufactured may not actually be so “eco”. For this reason Divergent Microfactories is working on creating the first economic super car created solely through 3D printing (read more here).
Within the healthcare sector, 3D printing is currently restricted to research and is extremely experimental. However, we can expect to see bones and skin tissue being 3D printed in the not too distant future. Researchers are already working on printing vital organs for transplant patients too.
Just think what’s to come…if 3D printers can create human organs, it won’t be long before we’re eating printed food! It’s all very exciting.