Whilst 3D printing technology can trace its history back 30 years, the repercussions of its development are only now starting to permeate the public’s consciousness. Its far-reaching and multi-industry potential is being realised as markets around the world are discovering the use of the technology could improve production and cut costs. Here are seven industries that may be about to change, thanks to the 3D printer.
Food & Beverage
Three students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently used a 3D printer to create ice cream. Printing directly into a freezing environment allowed the ice cream to retain its integrity. Kyle Hounsell, Kristine Bunker and David Donghyun Kim created the sweet printed treat with marketability in mind. As well as structure, the trio ensured the speed of printing was quick enough to ensure customers wouldn’t be put off waiting for their ice cream.
The students managed to print ice cream in a variety of different shapes, potentially opening up a new ice cream market in the process.
When the 3D printing technology is perfected and the machinery becomes smaller and more efficient, it will naturally lend itself to performance art. Shapes, colours and patterns will be made effortlessly in front of the eyes of adoring crowds. The opportunities are almost limitless for artists, with some already utilising the technology for stationary art.
Home & Office Furniture
If the past couple of decades have seen the furniture industry dominated by IKEA and its flat pack ilk, the near future could be the domain of 3D printer-rendered furniture. The technology is capable of producing highly detailed furniture installations without the cost of skilled labour, making it more affordable for stockists to invest in. Many furniture designers are already beginning to utilise 3D technology to create unique pieces.
Arguably the industry which will necessitate the highest levels of regulating and testing before incorporating 3D printers; the medicine industry has more at stake than other industries (namely, your life). However medical researchers Organovo have already begun the process of trying to commercialise the 3D-printed liver tissue. But before we start implanting 3D printed organs and body parts onto ourselves, there are a lot of scientific, political, moral and ethical questions to answer.
The Sharing of Intellectual Property
In the not too distant future, the 3D printer could become a household fixture as common as its 2D contemporary. Printer specialists Printerland are already selling affordable, desktop 3D printers, ideal for the home. This will mean households will be able to produce a wide range of products. Digital design instructions for printing products will become commodities like old knitting pattern books. Savvy designers will be able to sell files remotely to customers to then print out the product they are searching for.
Accessories, Spares and Repairs
Instead of ordering a spare part for your car or computer from a distant warehouse, customers will be able to print off a new piece immediately. Car manufacturers, for example, could simply include the resin or material needed and instructions for printing spare car parts. This could reduce the necessity for manned garages and customer care teams, making it far more affordable for the car companies. Mass production pioneers Ford are reportedly already utilising 3D technology.
Whether you’re a deadbeat dad who quickly has to put together a present for your child’s birthday you forgot or the parent of a demanding child with a piercing shriek; you’ll be grateful for the perfection of 3D printing. Keeping up to date with children’s toy fads can be expensive and exhausting. 3D printers may be able to keep all parents aware of the latest and greatest toys instantly. The removal of production costs could also lead to cheaper toys.
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Article contributed by Garima Mehta