3D Printing Inventions That Already Changed Everyday Life

We gathered some of the most exciting and inspiring 3D printing inventions. This is real life, not science fiction!

3D printing is an exciting technology that in recent years has come to the forefront of conversations about digital fabrication and production in many sectors of industry. As a process that is relatively new and under development, the applications for 3D printing are not only varied, there are new ones being developed every year. This also means that there are a lot of misconceptions about 3D printing which we already addressed on this blog.

3D printing inventions
Source: Future Timeline

In this article, we’re going to talk about several applications of 3D printing that are already in use. It’s important to distinguish what is actually happening and likely to happen, from what is more like science fiction. For example, 3D printing is going to be a viable production method constructing houses fairly soon. However, things like 3D printing of everything or the presence of a 3D printer in every household are still within the realm of fiction.

Back on the real side of things, here are five 3D printing inventions that are already affecting everyday life!

Ekocycle Cube Plastic Recycling

The use of plastic is a serious environmental concern because the majority of plastic is non-biodegradable, which means that when it is thrown away it sits in a landfill for a very long time. Fortunately, these types of plastics can be broken down into their constituent fibers and reused in 3D printing. There are several 3D printing systems that accept recycled plastic and the Ekocycle Cube is one such printer. Research has supported the finding that this kind of recycling also uses less energy than traditional methods of recycling, which helps environmental concerns a great deal. This is a positive step in the direction of eco-friendliness and sustainability in the future.

3D printing inventions
Source: YouTube

3D printed food

Although this technology is still very new, there are several very interesting uses of 3D printing in food. The easiest foods to print are homogeneous, which means that some of the first foods to be 3D printed were candies and chocolate, which is possible with a thick paste extruder toolhead for ZMorph multitool 3D printer. It’s unlikely that the technology will work like the replicators on Star Trek anytime soon, but for now, there are people who have been using 3D printing to create incredibly decorative food. There are even some companies like Natural Machines, whose 3D printer Foodini is able to make foods like ravioli and pizza.

3D printing inventions
Source: TNO

Biomedicine

The biomedical applications of 3D printing are some of the most exciting developments in the technology. From prosthetics to printing working organs, the degree to which 3D printing inventions change the biomedical solutions is truly staggering.

One of the biggest benefits of 3D printed biomedical items is that they can be reprinted very easily. Many amputees have been very limited in the type of prosthetic that they have access to because of the time and costs associated with fabricating them. This is especially true for children who are missing limbs and must have new prosthetics built as they grow. 3D printing is not only cheaper, it’s also much faster, and has been shown to create prosthetics that works better, which means that amputees can have ready access to better prosthetics for a lower cost. Here is one such company Open Bionics with some creative innovations.

 

The same positive aspects of 3D printing can be applied to 3D printing organs. There are machines currently in use that are able to layer tissue into organs. Although a lot of this is still rudimentary, in the future this kind of technology may eliminate the necessity of organ transplants. Surgeons have already used 3D printing to construct models of organs that they will be operating on, which allows them to practice and has been reported to improve success during surgery.

 

 

Fashion and apparel

There are several high profile examples of 3D printing inventions in apparel such as shoes. Nike has released information about a shoe for soccer players that they were able to develop because the rapid fabrication of 3D printing allowed them to test more design iterations of the product and eventually create a better shoe. Not only that, they determined in the end that producing the shoe using 3D printers is actually more cost effective than outsourcing the job.

3D printed shoes
Source: Silvia Fado

This adoption of 3D printing inventions is happening in many fashion and accessory sectors, where designers are able to produce better items at a lower cost. Another product, in particular, is jewelry which is traditionally very expensive and time-consuming to produce. Now companies are using 3D printing to create custom jewelry designed to their customers’ specifications at a fraction of the normal cost. American Pearl is one such company allowing customers to design their own custom jewelry online, then 3D printing a mold for the ring which the metal is poured into, placing the gemstones by hand, and having the final product ready in 3-4 days instead of 2-3 weeks. The owner, Eddie Bakhash, said they are empowering consumers to make jewelry in real time and are able to do it at a cheaper price than competitors.

3D printed molds
Silver jewelry from 3D printed molds

Printing in remote locations

One of the biggest advantages of a 3D printer is that it is, comparatively, very compact. Most fabrication jobs require factories or at least a significant amount of machinery and labor. 3D printers are being sent to remote places without any infrastructure where shipping materials are costly and time intensive. Oil rigs, remote research bases in the Arctic, space stations, and island nations are all ideal for this application of 3D printing technology. Sustainability in remote locations is always difficult, but this technology is an important step forward.

3D printing inventions
Source: NASA

Truth to the 3D printing inventions hype

3D printing might seem like science fiction, but it is very real, and it’s only going to continue to become more important as 3D printing inventions are being further developed and perfected. The applications to different areas of life have the potential to drastically change and improve the way we do things. Although there are certainly ideas for it that are, at the moment, outlandish and unlikely to happen anytime soon, the real applications that are already being employed all over the world are staggering, important, and very exciting.

Jessica Walrack

Freelance writer and ZMorph blog contributor

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