3D printing, also known as ‘additive manufacturing’, is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. It does this by laying down layers of material until the entire object is created.
When 3D printing was first invented, it was limited to designers and engineers to make prototypes before major production began. However throughout recent years, 3D printers have become more advanced and capable to work with a wider range of materials. Here's a sample of what can now be done with 3D printing.
The FDA has recently approved the first prescription drug to be made through 3D printing. The vision behind this idea is that medication could be customised for an individual to make it more safe and effective. The drug is meant for adults and children who suffer from seizures caused by epilepsy. The possibilities are endless as this development could lead to pharmacies being able to download the blueprints and manufacture the drugs themselves.
The United Arab Emirates National Innovation Committee recently unveiled plans to create the first 3D printed office building. Both exterior and interior walls will be printed, as well as the furniture. Engineers for this project will use a 20 foot-tall 3D printer which will be assembled on site. Construction time for this project will only last a few weeks, with labour costs being reduced between 50-80% and construction waste will be reduced by 30-60%.
Human body parts can now be created through 3D printing. From ears thorugh to functioning kidneys, scientists have found ways to create multiple body parts, meaning life saving organs can be produced, and not sourced from donors.
Glass manufacturing has also adapted to 3d printers. Special printers were made which contain two heated chambers. One chamber heats the glass, the second chamber is where the glass takes form, and this chamber is a cooler heat to let the glass form and cool.
Student Danit Peleg, created her entire clothing collection using 3D printing. It took her nine months of research and 2,000 hours’ worth of printing.
1. Cheap manufacturing – 3D printing is helping companies to save up to 70% of manufacturing costs. By using less packaging and shipping and a smaller workforce, companies are able to make more profit.
2. Quick Production – 3D printing technology can create an object in a few hours, whereas traditional manufacturing methods can take up to two or more days.
3. Less Waste – for some aircraft builders, up to 90% of their material is usually wasted. However, with 3D printing less energy is used and it minimises waste. Therefore, 3D printing saves costs and is better for the environment.
4. Combinations of materials - with mass production methods, it is tricky to combine different materials due to their chemical and physical properties and high costs. However, 3D printing has eliminated these limitations due to its constant innovation.