When 3D printing was first reported, the promises were endless. We'd all be making our own clothing, building our own vehicles, and generally running manufactures out of business worldwide. The realities have been a bit different -- technologies are still in rudimentary stages, and finding materials that lend well to printing certain items, like electronics and clothing, haven't quite been honed to perfection.
Still, the past year has seen remarkable innovation in several arenas. The quality of 3D printers is on the rise, and the quality of printer you can score for a reasonable sum of cash has also improved. Additionally, new materials have been developed that lend well to particular printing endeavors. Here are the most remarkable achievements in 3D printing as of late.
3D Printed Human Organs
Perhaps the most promising innovation is in the medical sciences. Scientists have successfully 3D printed human liver tissues, which have proven far better at detecting toxins than those previously generated by 2D printers. These liver cells were able to detect hidden toxins in drugs that had been approved by the FDA. The drugs were later pulled off the market. What does this bode for the future? One day liver cells such as this could help pharmaceutical companies get needed medications to the market faster. Controversial drug testing on animals could be eliminated. Most promising, scientists could 3D print human organs, saving thousands of people who die waiting on suitable organs to become available.
3D Printing in Space
Amid a whirlwind of publicity, an astronaut was recently able to print his own wrench in space. NASA emailed him the specs, and he created the tool on the zero-gravity 3D printer installed at the International Space Station where he works. Zero-gravity 3D printing has not been without its challenges, but could one day significantly reduce the amount of weight and space taken up on space missions. Astronauts could simply manufacture what they needed while on board the spacecraft.
3D Printed Cars
The first 3D printed (well, mostly 3D printed) car has finally been introduced. Reviewers expected a low-powered, poor handling machine, but were pleasantly surprised at the vitality of the car. The Strati is the first such vehicle introduced to the public, but you can bet your sweet gearshift it won't be the last.
3D Printed Houses
Actually, more people have publically unveiled houses they built using 3D printers than vehicles. Among these adventurers is Andrey Rudenko, an engineer and architect who lives in Minnesota. Rudenko produced a mini castle in his backyard using 3D printing, and hopes to soon embark on building a full-size home. A Chinese company showed off its ability to produce no fewer than 10 homes within a 24-hour period, though architects and engineers question the quality and integrity of those productions. Still, the promise of 3D printed homes means that builders could one day make homes to capitalize on a particular need within a given environment, such as the ability to effectively capture heat from the sun or collect rainwater for use within the home.
3D Printed Clothing
Until recently, clothing manufactured on a 3D printer was rigid and uncomfortable, definitely not something anyone would want to don to work or a party. That changed when the company Nervous System produced the Kinematics Dress, a soft, fluid gown generated from a single piece of nylon fabric. Most intriguing is that the dress was made using a body scan of the model who would wear it. Essentially, the dress was constructed as a perfect fit just for her. This would be invaluable to those people who don't fit into a stereotypical size 10, 12, or 14. The possibilities for uncommonly tall, short, or shaped people is promising indeed.
Perhaps the realization of what 3D printing can actually do for society is on the brink of making itself known. For CAD users, Cadalyst is the brand of CAD information provider that offers the most complete and up-to-date information about CAD. Visit Cadalyst for more news, information, tips, and tricks for CAD design, 3D printing, computer-aided manufacturing, and much more today.