I know you would probably have heard of 3D printing before but you may not have imagined how 3D printing could change the face of technology and manufacturing in a few years to come. 3D printing has become popular in the 21st century and development of this technology may open a whole world of unlimited ideas and products.
3D printing or additive manufacturing according to Wikipedia is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model.
The design of the object to be made will be done on your computer which is then transferred to your 3D printer just like you transfer your documents to your ink printers.
3D printing has given you the opportunity to manufacture customized objects right in your house. 3D printers build an object one layer at a time.
The first working 3D printer was created by Chuck Hull of 3D Systems Corp. in 1984. Initially, 3D printers used to have high costs up to the tune of $20,000 but have become cheaper to as low as $1,000 as the technology has become more popular in the 21st century.
3D printing can be useful in defense as 3D guns have been printed over the years using computer designs of the guns. It has also been applicable in making jewelries like necklaces made of glassfiber-filled dyed nylon.
It is also applicable in fashion as it has been used to make clothes, bikinis etc. It can be used to make prototypes of big objects that are to be manufactured using the traditional manufacturing processes.
Perhaps one aspect of its applications that showed 3D printing could have a countless number of applications is its use in the medical field.
In 2013, Chinese scientists at the Hangzhou Dianzi University invented a 3D bio printer dubbed “Regenovo” which can print ears, livers and kidneys from living tissue. Regenovo developer, XuMingen, claimed the printer could produce a mini liver sample or a five inch ear cartilage sample in under an hour.
In this same year, researchers at the University of Hasselt, in Belgium successfully printed a new jawbone for an 83-year-old Belgian woman. The woman can now chew, speak, and breathe with the new 3D printed jawbone.
European Space Agency has been working on perfecting 3D printing of metal parts which it expects to achieve in five years time. This technique will be used to print rocket parts and will also be used to print spares in space.
To be honest, there are many applications of 3D printing that space would not allow us to mention because to put it in simple terms, 3D printing is versatile. To add to it, 3D printing waste no/less materials compared to traditional manufacturing processes and this is due to the fact that objects are formed inside a 3D printer from the raw material in the printer which means only the needed amount of raw materials is used.
With any good invention, there are bound to be negatives abound to it and 3D printing has its own share of negatives. Criminals will soon be able to print guns right in their closets and this will give authorities in many countries a very hard work in gun control programs. There’ll be no receipt of purchase of gun anywhere, no record of someone going to a store to buy a gun, so a more difficult work to track a crime.
One other issue is that of piracy. Designs, machines, manufactures and composition of matter can be patented which means anybody who use these designs or make these patented objects can be sued in the court of law. For instance, design of a gun and instructions on how to print a gun found its way to The Pirate Bay and other file sharing sites after it was pulled down from its site of origin, Defense Distributed. The United States Department of State had in May, 2013 demanded that Defense Distributed remove the instructions on how to print a gun from its website.
Just like the ongoing war against pirated copies of songs, videos and software files on the internet, design piracy may soon become one of the biggest issues in years to come. It may not be a disadvantage to lawyers though, as they will have more cases to work on (pun intended).
The issue of scale of production could also come in as it is presently not suitable for mass production of objects.
Despite the disadvantages, I think its advantages are more beneficial in the grand scheme of things. The internet has many disadvantages but it can’t be denied that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages if you are really exploiting the advantages.
This technology is still at the young stage and this is the best time to invest in it or research about it. The 3D printing market is still very far from saturation for anyone who cares to know. It will also be useful to most people in many areas, like the internet although it may not be as big as the internet.