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10 Ways 3D Printing Will Change The World
10. The Economy
You might remember when the internet revolutionised public access to information. Now we could
be on the cusp of the same thing happening to manufacturing.
As the technology advances over time, most people could very well have a 3D printer in
their homes - meaning manufacturing could begin to shift away from factories. In fact,
3D printing's share of the worldwide manufacturing industry is set to reach $550 billion by 2025,
which is around 5% but it's only set to rise.
Such a change would be disruptive to traditional businesses - but some experts like Steve Sammartino
have urged companies to embrace it by collaborating with their users and making money from designs
rather than just production.
Not only that, but 3D printing - AKA additive manufacturing - could completely change the
concept of economies of scale, since now devices can create incredibly niche designs without
having to sell enough products to recoup setup costs.
9. Prosthetics
Right now, artificial limb replacements and reconstructive surgery can be expensive, arduous
and painstaking processes. Prosthetic legs can cost as much as $50,000 in some cases
- and it's even worse in impoverished countries, which disproportionately contribute to the
30 million people in need of artificial limbs and a 40,000 person shortage of prosthetists.
But with advances in additive manufacturing, we could see that number plummet.
Even now, a group of designers has created a 3D-printable prosthetic hand called the
'Cyborg Beast'. This type of prosthesis was designed to allow children to cheaply
replace their hands as they grow. Each new traditional prosthesis would cost thousands
of dollars, whereas the 3D printing process means that the Cyborg Beast costs just $50
to produce.
It's even possible now to use bioprinters to create artificial skin which can be used
as grafts for patients suffering from burns and disfiguring injuries - though it's not
yet available for public use until it's approved.
8. The Environment
You probably noticed that the coral reef is having a tough time right now. More than half
of Australia's famous Great Barrier Reef has disappeared since 1985 and a quarter of
it was lost in 2016 alone.
It's predominantly due to coral bleaching as a result of climate change increasing the
temperature of the ocean, and while this change is nearly irreversible, 3D printing is providing
a sustainable, albeit depressing solution.
Scientists are now testing fake reefs that carry out biological functions, but are much
more resistant to the damaging effects climate change. In theory, they will be large and
detailed enough to attract the algae that foster the coral ecosystem - essentially acting
like the real thing.
Monaco is currently testing artificial reefs in a bid to combat its own habitat loss, monitoring
the structures for two years to determine how feasible it truly is.
7. Architecture
You're probably thinking 3D printing is just for small objects like consumer products
or really small objects like medical equipment. But recently, we've seen the scale of additive
manufacturing expand dramatically - it's now possible to print entire houses.
This 400 square meter, 2 storey home was created in China in 2016 and is capable of withstanding
a magnitude 8 earthquake. Even more impressively, construction company HuaShang Tengda achieved
the feat in just 45 days by utilising a giant 3D printer - compared to 7 months for the
average family house.
Homes have been created using this technology in the past, but this structure is the first
to have printed the house onto the building frame, rather than creating the parts separately
and assembling them.
Given the massively increased speed and reduced cost compared to conventional construction,
this kind of technology could drastically improve global housing conditions - particularly
in the developing world.
6. Medicine
Prescription medicine is already prohibitively expensive for many people, and that's with
many pills just being 'close enough' to any given patient's individual condition.
But 3D printing is opening up a brave new world of medicine.
Pharmaceutical company Aprecia has created the world's first 3D printed drug, named
Spiritam, which, if you were wondering, is designed to control epilepsy-induced seizures.
The company employs a technology called Zipdose, which allows pills to be 3D-printed and bound
together in an aqueous fluid. That makes them both more dissolvable for patient ease and
can pack in more medicine per pill.
But most importantly, this could lead to pharmacies being able to 3D print drugs with specific
compositions - essentially tailoring them to the individual instead of hoping the closest
appropriate dosage of mass-produced pills does the trick.
That could mean more effective and personalised treatment for future patients, reducing the
risk of incorrect or disproportionate prescriptions.
5. Forensics
When it comes to evidence in trials, you're probably thinking of pixelated printouts and
approximate analysis. But all that could be a thing of the past as 3D printing makes crime
come to life, or close enough at least.
It's now possible to manufacture precise models of any evidence that could be relevant
to solving a case or trying it in court. Everything from footprints, fingerprints and bones to
reconstructed scale models of crime scenes.
In one particularly intriguing case in 2016, forensic investigators used additive manufacturing
to reconstruct the skull of a dead woman from Greene County Ohio, who couldn't be identified
by her DNA, dental records or even her tattoos. After the 72 hour printing process, the Ohio
State University team then managed to recreate the face of the unfortunate woman - it's
hoped that it will eventually lead to her identification.
4. Guns
Like with the internet expanding access to informative and dangerous information alike,
3D printing risks dangerous objects being created with little effective means of regulation
- case in point: guns.
3D printed guns have already been designed and produced as early as 2013 by the controversial
group Defense Distributed, which acts to make so called 'wiki-weapons' publicly available.
The European law agency Europol believes criminals will still be more interested in traditional
firearms, but the increasing ease of 3D printing tech could make this a real risk in the future.
The Chinese city of Chongqing is so worried about the potential that it has made it law
for 3D printers to be registered with the government in order to prevent them being
used to create illegal items.
3. Food
Imagine coming home after work to find your fridge bare and the supermarkets closed. Well
have no fear, soon you'll be able to just download a recipe and print your dinner.
In recent years, a swathe of companies have developed their own 3D food printers. The
early models focussed on the easy stuff like shaping sugary substances, but now it's
possible to make actual meals like pizza, spaghetti and burgers by constructing them
from their base ingredients.
If and when it becomes an everyday feature in the home, this tech could allow people
to have new levels of control over their nutrition by printing meals with specific dietary content
- without having to spend hours sourcing and preparing them.
Some scientists have even suggested that by replacing base ingredients with more renewable
ones like algae, duckweed and grass, this technology could help to combat the world's
ever growing food needs.
2. Space Travel
So this one isn't technically the world, but even so, the burgeoning 3D printing market
could have major implications on how space travel is approached in the future.
One of the big issues for any space mission is the contingency plans for the inevitable
malfunctions - especially when it comes to fixing or replacing broken equipment. But
with an onboard 3D printer, it would be possible to create any given part with the same manufacturing
That idea has already been put into practice on the International Space Station in 2014,
when its then-new onboard 3D printer tested creating a part while in orbit.
As well as giving the ISS the ability to essentially 'beam up' parts from earth, it could save
as much as $20,000 per kilogram in the cost of sending supplies into space
As you've already seen, bioprinting has made massive strides in recent years. It's
even thought that within our lifetime, we will be able to 3D print human organs. Using
what's called 'flink' - or functional living ink - it is possible to recreate a
working kidney, lung or even a heart.
When perfected, 3D printed organs could revolutionise medical treatment, ending the wait for the
120,000 people on the US transplant waiting list and theoretically preventing the deaths
of as many as 8,000 people per year in the US alone.
But there are concerns that such innovative technology could be seen as playing god by
reducing people to the sum of their parts - natural or otherwise.
In the meantime, though, , surgeons are making use of 3D printing by creating sophisticated
replicas of the organs and surrounding tissue that they'll be operating on - because as
everyone knows, practice makes perfect.
That was 10 ways 3D printing will change the world, which one will have the biggest impact?
Let us know in the comments and make sure to like and subscribe. While you're at it,
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10 Ways 3D Printing Will Change The World

305 Folder Collection
Andrew Pedro published on July 24, 2018
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