Since its inception in the 80s, 3D printing has evolved into a revolutionary technology. 3D printers have become more versatile, robust, precise and faster. Today, high-end 3D printers are within reach for commercial and even personal use. Many industries and professionals are taking advantage of the technology to push boundaries in their fields. Here are examples of three areas where 3D printing has made a remarkable impact on innovations and growth.

Product development

In the past, 3D printers were primarily used to develop unique parts and tools for various industries. Although this is still going on, modern printers have taken this concept to the next level. Developing a new product involves a lot of research and testing. 3D printing makes the process faster through functional prototyping and concept modelling.

Developers can print a scaled model of a new product and physically test its parameters without relying on erroneous simulations. They can then fine-tune the design to meet specific goals. This has greatly benefited the aerospace, automotive, and manufacturing industries by cutting the time and cost of designing and testing new models and parts.

Architecture and construction

It’s always been a challenge for architects and building contractors to visualise and showcase their design concepts to buyers and clients. Before 3D printing, designers would spend months sculpting a physical model of a design plan by hand. This was painstaking work, and the resulting models would have severe scaling and resolution issues.

3D modelling an elaborate architectural plan from scratch now takes only a few days. What’s more, the scaling and detailing even on complex shapes is spot on. Using 3D printing, architects can bring their designs to life in a more realistic way than ever before. Again, saving resources and time.

Medicine

3D printing is being used in various medical fields such as dentistry, surgery and prosthesis to save lives and improve the quality of health care.

Surgeons use realistic 3D models of internal organs and tissues to help prepare for surgical operations; this leads to high rates of success and reduces risks. It’s now also possible to develop bespoke surgical tools and implants for specific procedures and patients. Thanks to 3D printing, amputees can have specially designed parts for their prosthetics. Dentists too have taken up 3D printing in modelling dentures, crowns and fillings.

Bottom line

3D printing is built for precision. Printing capabilities are continually improving with the introduction of new printing materials, intelligent printing algorithms, and faster mechanics. But even at its current stage, 3D printing is truly making an impact on our lives.

Photo: 3D-printed Wave vase by Creative Tools licensed under Creative Commons 4.0