Several decades ago, it was hard to imagine that technology would become an integral part of our lives. But here we are utilizing laptops, chatting via social media, doing business online, working remotely, and doing many more activities with the help of tech. Today, many users are quick to adopt the newest updates and technology trends. This proves that technology has become an increasingly large part of people’s everyday lives.
Some of the most recent tech trends include the rise of cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), deep learning, AI and blockchain, the utilization of neural networks, and 3D printing. The 3D printing industry is expected to reach nearly $50 billion by 2030. In this article, we will discuss the history of 3D printing, the applications of this technology in various industries, the most recent advancements, and the future of this trend.
The History of 3D Printing
Although 3D printing became a broad-based trend only a couple of years ago, its history is longer than you think. Stereolithography (SLA), also known as 3D printing, was first patented in 1984 and the first 3D printing machine called SLA-1 was created in 1987 by Chuck Hull. Hull’s invention facilitated and jumpstarted the development of various complex processes and was the initial point of this industry’s development. However, at that time, 3D printing machines cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and were, therefore, only utilized by large manufacturers.
How did this technology become a common trend then? 3D printing started showing its potential for many industries at the beginning of the 21st century.
One of the first practical applications of this technology was in the bioengineering field. Scientists at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine managed to print the building elements of a urinary bladder by utilizing additive manufacturing and covering the produced organ with cells from the patient to avoid its rejection by the patient’s body. After this operation, other technological advances followed.
3D printing was utilized to produce miniature kidneys, prosthetic legs, bioengineered blood vessels, and more. Although all the mentioned operations were only experimental, the potential and importance of 3D printing technology became evident.
Nowadays, this technology is applied in many industries, from construction and architecture to manufacturing and healthcare. Next, we explore the most crucial uses of 3D printing in these industries.
3D Printing in Construction
Although 3D printing is a recent innovation in the construction industry, the changes it brings are significant. 3D printing has streamlined a lot of production processes. For instance, in 2016, Apis Cor printed the structure of a 400-square-foot building in just 24 hours. Also, the technology is useful in precarious places or places with limited access, such as mining sites or disaster areas.
3D printing has also reduced the environmental impact of construction-related activities. Construction is well-known to be one of the most wasteful and energy-unfriendly processes that produce nearly 40% of all greenhouse emissions. Therefore, 3D printing represents an eco-friendlier way of production of cement-based and metal elements (e.g., walls and rebar).
3D Printing in Architecture
Architecture is another industry where 3D printing is utilized. Not only is this technology useful in creating concept models, but also it facilitates many processes for interior designers. No architectural project is developed without a conceptual model that represents a detailed visualization of the future design. 3D printing simplifies this process by creating detailed physical models utilizing various materials and colors. Additionally, 3D printing allows architects to easily and efficiently make adjustments to the model, saving them time and resources.
In terms of interior design, 3D printing is utilized to customize customers’ selections quickly and without additional costs or shipping delays. Nowadays, many furnishings are 3D printed in-house from recyclable materials, which positively affects the environment and reduces production costs.
3D Printing in Healthcare
As mentioned earlier, 3D printing is revolutionizing healthcare in many ways, including implants & prosthetics, anatomical models, and medical equipment. This technology is broadly utilized to create dental implants. After the successful application of 3D printing with this type of implant, the medical society has also developed new ways of implementing the technology in prosthetic hands and arms creation.
Furthermore, preparing for difficult procedures can be much easier for surgeons thanks to highly accurate anatomical models created by 3D printers. 3D printed models reduce risks as surgeons assess all the potential outcomes before the surgery. Additionally, they help to reduce surgical time as the physician doesn’t have to make instantaneous decisions and evaluations during the procedure.
3D printing can also facilitate and improve surgeries by creating customized medical equipment, such as forceps, clamps, hemostats, and retractors. The most common benefits of medical device printing are low prices, no supply chain challenges, and speed improvement.
The Future of 3D Printing
3D printing is a promising technology that can find its place in various industries. Analysts believe that this technology will be used in a variety of fields, such as healthcare, aerospace advancements, aviation, and electronics. Let’s take a look at what 3D printing can offer to any of these industries.
The future of this technology in healthcare is predicted to be bright. 3D printing is expected not only to be able to produce on-demand living body tissue, but also to create top-notch blood vessels, bones, and organs. However, some issues regarding the implementation of this technology still need to be solved. These challenges include the development of effective reimbursement models for these services and products, the improvement of risk management, and the establishment of 3D production facilities.
Construction and even space travel can benefit from 3D printing as well. For instance, NASA, along with other space-interested institutions, are trying to find ways of utilizing this technology for printing buildings and required structures on other worlds, primarily the Moon and Mars.
The global idea is that NASA would send a group of trained robots to other worlds to build various structures, buildings, etc., by collecting the planet’s raw materials, converting them into usable materials, and utilizing them for construction purposes. This whole program is hoped to be executed years before humans arrived in the other worlds to ensure their smooth relocation.
Furthermore, 3D printing will significantly improve aviation. 3D-printed components will be applied in various fields, from military to general aviation, which will facilitate and fasten aerospace and aviation machine production.
3D printing technology is a game changer. It has already improved various operations within diverse industries and is expected to enhance even more. Therefore, keeping an eye on the recent advancements in this trend will bring some benefits to your personal and professional life.
Hanna is a first-year student at the University of Nicolaus Copernicus, Torun. After leaving her previous university in Belarus, she moved to Poland to study Cognitive Science and its application in Marketing. She is deeply interested in modern technologies, specifically AI and Metaverse, and their influence on society.