3D printing: Past, present and future

Initially, 3D printing was used primarily to design and make prototypes, largely in the automotive and aerospace industries. Today, the capabilities of the technology are expanding to create usable equipment and products for the end-user.

From healthcare to education

In healthcare, hearing aids, hip replacements, and surgical tools are being printed on a more frequent basis. Many schools and libraries also now have a machine for students or the public to try, and they will often offer courses or one to one support. It seems 3D machines are finding use in everyday life, although we are some distance from that recurrent dream of a machine in every home.

Due to improvements in the design of 3D printers, faster speeds are available. Today’s machines can manufacture items more quickly and on a greater scale, leading to greater affordability. With these advancements, we have seen interesting developments in the application of the technology.

Its benefits are far-reaching

Fashion designers have been able to create more progressive designs, opening up avenues of possibility for not only the catwalk but also inspiring more adventurous homemade creations.

There is scepticism around the usefulness of 3D printing within the food industry, but it is not without its benefits. Fitness trackers can be hooked up to the printer so that personalised and nutritionally-optimised meals can be printed. This would be undeniably useful in a hospital setting, where meals can be customised to aid recovery. Scientists are working on using lasers to incorporate cooking capability into the machines.

Evidence that the technology is really securing its foothold in our everyday lives lies in its presence in schools and libraries. The value of introducing emerging tech to students of any age is undisputed. Simple design software is being used in schools to make toys and maps, fostering curiosity and building timeless skills like problem-solving and critical thinking.

What does the future hold?

In conjunction with the other major developments in tech such as big data, the cloud and next-gen robotics, the continuing improvements to 3D printing capabilities look set to create an adaptable and intelligent workspace – the factory of the future.

Photo: 3D Printer by its-izzy licensed under Creative Commons 4.0