Who Really Uses 3D Printing and Why

We’re checking which industries, professionals, and who really uses 3D printing.

Many modern professionals take advantage of using 3D printing on a permanent basis. The technology is constantly evolving, together with the number of industries in which 3D printing is used. So, let’s explore how the applicability of this technology has expanded in certain professions by today and try to answer the question about who really uses 3D printing today.

really uses 3D printing
List of professions that really uses 3D printing is very long

Product Design

Fashion category is a relative newcomer to the commercial application of 3D printing besides prototyping products for advertising purposes. A striking example of the progress is Zante Generate, a running shoe featuring full-length thermoplastic midsole of unprecedented performance and incredible flexibility. New Balance’s product designers have used the selective laser sintering technology combined with specifically developed new powder material created in collaboration with 3D Systems.

really uses 3D printing
Source: New Balance

In contrast to the market giants, the smaller companies tend to offer fashion designers the appropriate universal desktop solutions for creative work such as ZMorph multitool 3D printer already being in use by fashion, shoe, and even jewelry designers.

3D printed molds
Silver jewelry made from 3D printed molds

In electronics, nobody would be surprised with printed quadcopter parts. But engineers now can have personal 3D printing factories at their disposals! The issue was addressed by VOXEL8 that was mentioned in MIT Technology review as “one of the 50 smartest companies of 2015”. Their dedicated all-in-one 3D printer allows any developer to design and prototype next-generation 3D electronics using cloud software, innovative conductive silver ink, as well as fused deposition modeling, and pneumatic direct write technologies with 200 microns layer resolution.

Environmental Engineering & Architecture

Ecological engineers, as well as civil constructors, are on the verge of the most important and timely use of mobile 3D printing solutions. A bright example is the Field Ready humanitarian organization. Right after the earthquake, two engineers used their Land Rover as a standing platform and a charger to a small desktop 3D printer which was printing a plastic fitting for local pipes. The problem seems to be not so serious, but that day only two men helped to bring water to the whole village in just 15 minutes.

really uses 3D printing
Source: Field Ready

The progress of civil construction through 3D printing becomes more obvious with such projects as WinSun’s giant villa which was almost entirely printed by an almost 7 meters tall printer. The architects were able to create a fantastic geometry thanks to the possibilities of giant printing units and the concrete ink consisting completely of recycled materials that needed only 24 hours to dry.

really uses 3D printing
Source: The Guardian / Imaginechina / Corbis

Architects can also use 3D printing technology for the creating accurate dioramas of entire cities and neighborhoods in matters of hours. In the past, such visualizations could take months to complete!. For example, all architectural modeling processes in LGM company are currently based on 3D modeling and CAD resources, starting from composite concept models and ending with full-color terrain models.

really uses 3D printing
Source: LGM

Medical industry

The future of high-dose medications takes a rapidly disintegrating form with ZipDose technology developed by Aprecia’s pharmacists. The precise powder-liquid three-dimensional layering allows creating the unique bonds system that masks the taste, simplify drugs administration, and enables prescribing individual dosages to patients.

In Brazil, a team of doctors has printed the silicone prosthesis of the part of the man’s face ingested by cancer. They used Autodesk’s 123D Catch photogrammetry app and a standard desktop 3D printer just like a student from Poland who has built a rehabilitation orthosis.

3D Printed Rehabilitation Orthosis - Hand
3D printed rehabilitation orthosis

Axial3D is the revolutionary pre-surgery diagnostic scanning platform developed by two physicians from Belgium. It analyses the data received from CT and MRI scans of patients and creates a three-dimensional model that can be quickly 3D printed.

Another medical example is dentistry which already utilized the precision of desktop 3D printers like ZMorph which can print directly from DICOM medical files, Form 2 or Objet30 OrthoDesk. The technology is slowly replacing traditional methods of casts and impressions for teeth prosthetics as well as introduces printing with specialized fillers like dental SG resin or NextDent Base that can revolutionize classical dental practices in just a few years.

medical 3D printing
Skull model in Voxelizer software

Automotive Industry

Have you ever dreamed that someday you’ll be able to make not only car parts but the whole car using a 3D printer? Well, the creators of STRATI just have translated these dreams into reality and it symbolically took place in Detroit!

really uses 3D printing
Source: Local Motors

The world’s first printed car was described by Local Motors CEO as “a small electric two-seater”. Its actual significance for the car industry lies in the extreme low-cost technology and fully recyclable materials used such as carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic. The whole structure takes only 44 hours to print and leaves no waste products. Of course, the engineers didn’t yet move the stuffing of the car to plastic so the electric components such as motor, battery, and powertrain were not printed.

3D printed jigs and fixtures
Source: Machine Design

Companies like Ford, Volvo, and BMW really uses 3D printing for rapid prototyping, experimental parts, and creating jigs and fixtures for manufacturing. Mercedes-Benz which is currently pioneering this niche among other truck producers, and makes more than 100 000 printed prototypes each year. They also provide their clients with unique spare parts even if their cars are no longer produced. The parts available online include high-quality plastic covers, spacers, spring caps, air and cable ducts, clamps, mountings and control elements.

really uses 3D printing
Source: Mercedes-Benz

Food Industry

Chefs and restaurateurs are just fans of such novelties like Foodini. This compact machine can create a fresh and healthy dish in the fastest and most incredible way. Foodini is an innovation that could be used just like a microwave in the next five years. Natural Machines engineers provided it with an open capsule model that makes this appliance even more convenient and multipurpose than competitors’ devices.

really uses 3D printing
Source: Foodini

Veterans of food industry appear to be NASA scientists, who have been exploring additive manufacturing of food for years. One of the developers of NASA 3D food program, Anjan Contractor, today uses the earlier developments to print fresh pizza with a BeeHex desktop robot. Even more traditional desktop 3D printers like ZMorph can be equipped with a thick paste extruder able to 3D print with various foods.

Food3dPrinting_01
Food 3D printed with ZMorph’s Thick Paste extruder

Music Industry

Musicians around the world suddenly really uses 3D printing as a cheap way to get high-quality original instruments. Among the most extraordinary, we should point out a metal saxophone printed by enthusiast Olaf Diegel after his previous experiments with Duraform nylon guitar and drum set. The new instrument was printed using ITRI’s Optical Engine technology and a titanium alloy powder. The basis of this technology is individual hardness variability of various sections of a solid alloy, as well as high precision printing (up to 50 μm).

Next musician literally stands on the brink of the future of electronic MIDI instruments. Onyx Ashanti is not only a virtuoso in his custom controllers for hands and feet Beatjazz and Exo-Foot respectively but also makes them from scratch using the desktop version of RepRap 3D printer and nylon filament and EcoFlex PLA from Formfutura.

really uses 3D printing
Source: 3D Printing Industry

Artists

Instead of listing a bunch of 3D printed drums, violins, cellos, guitars, and even restored vinyl records along with playing music servomotors, let’s check other applications of 3D printing in a wider array of arts. Mark Wilson’ latest work borders with a creation of a new life. The Chromatose is not only a masterpiece but also a responsive living synthetic organism! Such novelties as varying color and rigidity as well as the resolution of just 16 micron (!) became possible due to the latest 3D printing technology innovations.

really uses 3D printing
Source: Mark Wilson

A legend of modern abstract sculpture, Bruce Beasley, used Autodesk to create and then print his latest Coriolis series, which was printed with a large state-of-the-art industrial 3D printer using liquid plastic.

really uses 3D printing
Source: Bruce Beasley

Interior designers are on the rise of using 3D printing in creating the decorative patterns. Like the elegant and stylish decorative tile made by Michail Georgiou and his students using ZMorph multitool 3D printer.

3D printed patterned landscapes
One of the 3D printed patterned landscapes

So, who really uses 3D printing and why?

Our list of who really uses 3D printing clearly shows that the technology has long passed the innovation stage. Professionals, both from large and small companies, artists, scientists, designers, engineers, and architects, choose this technology not only to try something new and different. They choose it because of less expensive non-waste production, simplified manufacturing processes, the possibility of using recyclable materials, simplicity and mobility, environmental friendliness, and unlimited shapes and sizes of products.

3D printing became a tool that enables creating things that were previously unimaginable. became a tool that enables creating things that were previously unimaginable.

Ihor Brahin

Mechanical engineer, writer, brand manager, and freelance business & marketing consultant