The explosion in 3-D printing has put the power of manufacturing in the hands of the people. Now, the ability to design, manufacture, produce and sell custom goods is one that everyone can wield. Gartner reports that 3-D printers are expected to grow in the consumer sector by 95 percent by 2017. As 3-D printing becomes more ubiquitous, innovation follows in its wake. Here’s a look at some of the most interesting innovations in 3-D printing so far:
Some major innovations come in small packages. For instance, engineers from BAE Systems created a 3-D printed camera bracket for a Tornado fighter jet in 2014 and successfully flew the aircraft in Lancashire. The most interesting aspect of this development isn’t just in the cost reduction, but the possibility of bringing 3-D printers to the frontlines. Being able to deploy needed parts at a moment’s notice with the ease of a button press could be the future of the military industry.
One of the largest scale consumer 3-D printed projects is the 3-D printed house. An Amsterdam based architecture firm called Dus Architects has be been working to develop a traditional canal house that can be printed on demand.
Printed on site, each room is individually printed and assembled in a modular fashion. As the construction industry adapts to the emerging technology of 3-D printing, we are sure to see more printed homes, especially since printing on site saves on the cost of transportation.
In the medical field, 3-D printing has been so successful as to be disruptive — Apple Rubber points out that some technologies are so innovative that they create a new market with new values, which overtakes the existing market.
The field of medical prosthetics is one such example of this. 3-D printing allows medical manufacturers to create custom prostheses for patients and print new parts as the technology evolves, rather than create an entirely new limb. Not only that, but prostheses that are built for adolescents or children may be printed as they grow. These innovations extend into facial reconstruction and even valves for a human heart can be printed.
The arts haven’t been left behind in the wake of the 3-D printing revolution. Students at Bristol University have revealed the first machine that can print usable ceramic objects using a porcelain substance that is superior to what other printers can manufacture.
Custom printed porcelain is just the tip of the iceberg — taken to commercial extremes, 3-D printed ceramics could save on production time and costs across the industry.
Perhaps the most stunning and futuristic application of 3-D printing is the birth of 3-D printed vehicles. German manufacturer EDAG has designed and printed a stylish thermoplastic car frame as a proof of concept, which Daily Mail reports may very well be on the road in the next 10 years.
The hope is that by printing an unbroken and continuous carbon fiber automobile body, the outer shell will be stronger and more reliable than any modern assembled vehicle. This may seem futuristic, but before you know it, you may be driving a 3-D printed car yourself.