What can you print using a 3D printer? The simple answer; almost anything. From doll houses and clothing to fighter jet parts, models of Old Trafford and whole villages, it is now possible to manufacture almost anything with a 3D printer.
A rapidly expanding technology, it has in recent months received a lot of mainstream media attention due to the association with 3D printed firearms. As a result, very little air time has been given to the fantastic work that is being done outside of this ethical and legal minefield.
From eccentric individuals to nascent businesses, there is an ever expanding community of innovators exploring the potential of 3D printing and the materials you can print with. Accredited by some as the beginnings of a ‘second industrial revolution’, 3D has been shaking up the world of printing and manufacturing.
What Is Being Printed Right Now?
As 3D printing hits high streets all over the globe, manufacturing has undergone a drastic makeover. Looking beyond simple plastic trinkets and instead crafting with innovation and development in mind, 3D experts are revolutionising all industries and markets.
To give you a taste of what is really happening, we thought we would point out some of the best projects currently being printed. From the downright silly to awe inspiring life changing solutions, these are some of the best examples that caught our attention.
1. Contour Crafting – Houses
Developed by Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis from the University of Southern California, this 3D printer can build a 2,500sq ft. house in just 24hrs. The giant machine replaces construction workers with a nozzle on a gantry frame, “basically scaling up 3D printing to the scale of a building” according to Khoshnevis. With plans to print colonies on the Moon, Contour Crafting technology has also laid out plans for emergency housing and low-income housing in 3rd world countries.
If you have ever dreamt of having your own robot, now is your chance. Meet Jimmy, Intel’s 3D printed robot for consumers. Created by Intel’s resident futurist, Brian David Johnson, Jimmy is an adorable droid developed to walk, sing, translate languages and send tweets when you are just too busy. On sale later this year for just £957, the only proviso is that you have to print Jimmy yourself, but you will be provided with the blueprints free of charge. Ideal for the tech savvy, you will need to purchase and construct a kit from Intel which includes motors and an Intel Edison processor.
Image Credit: recode.net
3. Continuum Fashion – Bikinis
Get ready for summer with the world’s first ready-to-wear completely 3D printed bikini. Everything from the fabric and closures are printed using the 3D process, snapping together without any need for sewing. The N12 bikini, called so because it is made out of Nylon 12, is strong and flexible allowing the material to bend without breaking. Created from thousands of circular plates connected by thin strings, this 3D printed material hold its form even when wet. If 3D printed fashion takes your fancy, take a look at the Paris Fashion Week catwalks where Iris Van Herpen collaborated with Stratasys in their latest collection.
Image Credit: Continuum Fashion
4. 3D Printed Food
Featured in recent news and seen at this year’s CES Show, the Chefjet™ series has brought 3D printed food and confectionary to kitchens all over the world. Using sugar and cocoa butter as the ink rather than plastics, the Chefjet™ can be used to make a number of treats. Working closely with Hershey, they have been developing 3D printed chocolates and sweets, taking us one step closer to printed food that tastes as good as it looks!
Image Credit: theverge.com
5. Hubble Space Telescope Images
If the Hubble Space Telescope wasn’t already amazing enough, now astronomers Carol Christian and Antonella Nota are experimenting with the 3D printing to transform night time celestial wonders into tactile 3D prints for people with visual impairments. Experimenting with standard braille as well as textures such as raised open circles, lines and dots, these 3D printouts are the first steps towards creating a cluster in the shape of geode which can be held in your hands.
What Does The Future Hold For 3D Printing?
As you can already see from the list above, the possibilities are endless when it comes to 3D printing. Used for science, the creation of consumer goods and humanitarian causes, there is nothing to stop this method being used for everything in the future.
Whilst the printing technologies are advancing, so are a number of other industries and fields. One of the most prevalent markets is the medical field. Most weeks a new story breaks about a medical advancement or invention that could revolutionise treatment, here are some of the most amazing and slightly bizarre projects.
• Printable Skin and Bone
Yes, you heard us correctly. Thanks to a recent advancement in 3D printing technology, it may soon be possible for doctors to ‘draw’ on new cells; generating new bone, skin and muscle tissues. The BioPen is a pen like device which will allows surgeons to apply human cells directly onto the site of injury; potentially allowing surgeons to heal bone.
Image Credit: 3dprinter.net
• Replacement Body Parts
In 2012, the world’s first 3D printed working lower jaw was fitted to an 83 year old woman. Made from titanium powder and finished with a bioceramic coating, this implant revolutionised operations. 2 years on, Seraph Robotics has developed a syringe like cartridge for 3D printing which enables them to create replacement body parts such as ears.
• Facial Reconstruction
Using 3D visualisation software, defects can be digitally analysed and then, using a 3D printer, reproduced to be anatomically correct. In July 2012, the first facial transplant was performed using this technology.
This list isn’t the end. There are so many other fantastic projects out there that we could go on forever. If you think of one we have missed off, leave us a comment below – we would love to hear from you.
Want to start experimenting with your own 3D printer? Order online at Printernet today!