Although 3D printing has been developing for over 30 years, it has only recently gained enormous popularity, which is expected to continue growing. No wonder, as the potential of 3D printing is great. 3D-printed objects can be manufactured with high accuracy of various materials and be customized while saving time and money. Find out where 3D printing is used and see that a variety of methods makes it possible to print almost anything!
Development of additive technologies – from prototypes to human tissues
3D printing is a technique of creating 3D objects based on a digital model. The technology was first developed by Chuck Hull in 1984 and patented two years later as stereolithography (SLA). The SLA technology was the first 3D printing method to cure a liquid photosensitive resin using a laser. A highly focused laser beam scans cross-sections of an object being printed and polymerizes its material layer by layer. Thus, the technology has been called an additive technology. It was used for prototyping. Over time, new additive technologies began to emerge, and there are a lot of them today. With the progress in accuracy, they are used not only in prototyping, but also in manufacturing end-use parts. So, what can be printed on a 3D printer? A variety of objects, including plastic products or their parts, objects of fusible materials (e.g., metal), and even biological materials, such as human tissues.
How industrial sector benefits from 3D printing
Additive technologies are very effective and create great opportunities, from prototyping to creating end-use or spare parts, for manufacturing companies operating in different industries, especially in the automotive, aerospace, machinery, and household appliances industries. 3D printing significantly reduces the time of making elements and also reduces production costs. The additive technologies also offer a chance to save materials, as possible problems can be detected already at the prototype stage. Due to 3D printing, objects of a very advanced shape can be manufactured. The additive technologies are perfect for creating single models or small series production. Filaments used for 3D printing are highly durable. Depending on the type of material, they possess other properties that make them suitable for various solutions, and 3D-printed objects meet the manufactures’ expectations, e.g., in thermal resistance or flexibility. The benefits of the additive technologies in manufacturing process are much greater compared to other production methods. This gives a company an advantage over its competitors in the industry, with no mandatory costly investment in own machinery. Following global corporations, you can outsource 3D printing to companies specializing in this field.
3D-printed professional architectural models
3D printing has also created new opportunities in modeling. Due to this technology, you can create realistic models of buildings and architectural objects, refined in every detail and even printed in color for better visualization. In addition to architectural models used, for example, by developers for marketing purposes (so-called sensory marketing), industrial or historical models can be created for presentation or educational purposes. While the traditional way of creating models does not always produce a satisfactory result and is time-consuming, 3D printing easily and quickly achieves impressive results. Due to the use of additive technologies, models are very durable and aesthetic.
3D printing in entertainment industry
The intensively developing movie and gaming industries, as well as toy manufacturers, also benefit from the development of 3D printing. Creation of special effects props or mock-ups used in animations, printing of costumes, toys, or elements of board games – the additive technologies are used in all the above. Manufacturers are willing and successful in using 3D printing in all the areas where a creative and unconventional approach is needed.
3D chocolate printing
3D printing in the food industry? It may sound a bit unbelievable, but it’s possible! Food 3D printers do actually exist. They are used, for example, by confectionery companies based on innovative solutions. Creating a chocolate portrait or cake decorations that cannot be produced by other means is no problem for 3D printers that can create artistic forms to be eaten.
3D printing revolutionizes healthcare industry
Something that seemed unimaginable not long ago is happening almost in front of our eyes today, just around the corner, and what else can happen? 3D printing has contributed to enormous advances in the healthcare industry. Studies are always underway on grafting 3D-printed human tissues or even entire organs. Perhaps in some time, there will be a real breakthrough in transplantation due to 3D printing, which will change the lives of many patients around the world. Moreover, 3D printing of anatomical models is of great importance for educational purposes, both for medical students and physicians. For example, surgeons can use 3D-printed anatomical models to get better prepared for a surgery.
One of the most popular applications of 3D printing is the manufacturing of prostheses and dental implants. 3D printing makes an element to perfectly fit within a patient’s anatomy. The same is true for 3D-printed rehabilitation products. An example is to replace traditional plaster with a lighter and more comfortable splint that can be customized based on a patient’s limb scan.
A US-based pharmaceutical company conducted research on 3D printing of a drug for epilepsy – due to the additive manufacturing technology, the drug disintegrates after a small sip of liquid and is easier to swallow. This manufacturing method also enables the precise dosing of drugs. For example, under physician’s prescription, pharmacies can print drugs containing substances in doses properly adjusted to patient’s personal needs.
3D printing even at home
3D printers are now used not only in manufacturing. Due to the availability and low prices of amateur 3D printers, virtually everyone can purchase a device and print, for example, a key ring, a holder, or anything else of the own design. However, it should be remembered that in case of 3D printers, the price goes hand in hand with quality. No stunning effects should be expected from a device purchased for a few hundred euros, and this type of printer is certainly not suitable for professional applications. However, to test 3D printing and own creativity, it’s worth purchasing a cheaper 3D printer for home use.
3D printing is developing very dynamically, and more and more sectors will benefit from it. With 3D printers, almost anything can be manufactured. And perhaps soon we will be limited only by our imagination …