In recent years, you may have heard of an emerging industry known as 3D printing. With the advent of technology that is able to process the complexity and extreme precision requirements of modern physical design, there’s been a rapid expansion in the offering of 3D scanning and printing services.
But what makes 3D printing so popular? Let’s explore some of the ways that the modern iteration of this technology has changed the game, from the wonders of artificially printed limbs to modern aerospace technology.
A Growing Industry
While traditional manufacturing processes such as metallurgy and woodwork have been around for millennia, dramatic improvements to modern computing in the twentieth century have provided the foundation for innovation. In fact, the size of the global 3D printing industry is expected to triple by 2026.
As of 2022, the level of sophistication has evolved – enabling the development of everything from helicopter engines to supercars. 3D printing technology is a surprisingly large world.
To Change A Life – 3D Printing In Health Sciences
In modern medicine, 3D printing provides the opportunity for health workers to improve patient outcomes. Medical procedures such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans allow for the production of complex digital models, which can then be produced on a 3D printer.
One application of medical 3D printing can involve the production of highly personalized medical prostheses. For a bespoke medical product that may be required in specific dimensions, the advent of the 3D printer has enabled the rapid development and production of affordable medical devices for those in need.
This has resulted in a revolution in the prosthetic limb space – meaning that patients in dire need are able to have the best quality of life available.
In an industry where patient safety is a matter of literal life and death, 3D printing can enable medical staff to improve both patient outcomes and patient care. Take, for example, complex surgical procedures such as transplant surgery require significant pre-operative planning to maximize their success.
For extreme cases, 3D bioprinting can be used to produce biological imitations of organs. This is live-saving technology, enabling the production of organs that are compatible with existing tissue.
This means that in the future, organ donation registries and lengthy wait times may no longer be a staple of the transplant industry. It is entirely possible that as 3D-printed organs improve, the risk of rejection can be reduced to effectively zero, potentially saving the lives of millions of organ recipients worldwide.
From Ideas To Reality – 3D Printing In Aerospace
In a world where climate change and supply chain issues have come to the forefront of global consciousness, it’s become essential for modern aerospace firms to improve the design of their products to become more efficient and less polluting than their predecessors.
A great example of this is the use of 3D-printed fuel nozzles on the next generation of Boeing aircraft. 19 of these 3D-printed nozzles enable the jet engines of the GE9X to be a whopping ten percent more efficient than their predecessors – enabling airlines to reduce their costs while providing the same standard of flying for their customers.
Innovations in 3D printing allow engineers to rapidly prototype complex parts, in some cases allowing them to reduce the number of pieces involved in an engine. This allows for a supply chain to be simplified, reducing the number of suppliers and the potential for delays.
In one case, GE engineers managed to replace 900 parts in an engine to just 16 – greatly reducing the cost and simplifying the manufacturing process.
What Does The Future Hold?
Across a wide range of industries, 3D printing has changed the game. From printing medical equipment on demand to the production of lightweight aircraft parts, the world has learned about the wonders and potential of this amazing technology.
But what does the future hold for this technology? For the humble 3D printer, the sky isn’t the limit, with some 3D printed parts being developed for the International Space Station.
Perhaps the future of printing lies in the shed of a hobbyist or hacker group – making the most of this surprisingly large world of 3D printing.