3D printing has until now been little more than a gimmick, a way for hobbyists to create plastic toys at home. But this technology could very well change the world, and this could happen sooner than many people realise.
Industries are already using the printers to create prototypes, and the technology is developing and improving at a rapid rate. As new techniques are being developed and new discoveries are being made, there is a huge amount of innovation in the world of 3D printing, and it is set to change our lives.
Here are a few of the main innovations in recent times that are making the technology increasingly useful.
Use of ultrasound
Printing composite material has already been around for a while, but now a new type of 3D printing has been discovered by scientists from the University of Bristol in the UK, and you can read all about it in the research paper called “3D printed components with ultrasonically arranged microscale structure.”
The new technique makes use of ultrasonic waves to position reinforcement fibers, giving extra strength to the printed material. It uses a liquid polymer that is then mixed with millions of fibers to create a material that is ready to print. Using this technology, the scientists have already reached 3D printing speeds of 20mm/s, and it can be used with any shape or size of fibre, presenting huge possibilities for product designers.
3D printing used to make replacement teeth
The Guardian in the UK recently reported on this area, and it presents a really exciting application for 3D printing. Researchers from the University of Groningen in Holland are creating a tooth printed using antimicrobial plastic. This plastic kills bacteria on contact, preventing tooth decay.
The material was placed into 3D printer and then hardened using UV light, allowing them to print the replacement teeth. And although it is not ready for clinical trials and has not been tested on humans, it could be used in the near future.
Much faster printing
There are expectations that 3D printing will increase in speed enormously over the coming years, which will have huge implications for the way that the technology is utilised.
In this TED talk in March 2015, Joseph DeSimonem from Carbon3D, a 3D printing company, talked about how in the near future it may be possible to print a tooth in minutes. This way, patients might be able to get their new printed teeth while they wait, providing a huge improvement on existing solutions.
As well as printing teeth, 3D printers could even print other parts of the body. Bio-printing is the name given to the printing of human bone, tissue, and even organs. There is a genuine expectation that 3D printers could start to provide replacement parts in the future. So as people live longer, they could literally print out a new organ to replace their existing one.
In August 2015, the FDA approved the first prescription drug made by 3D printing, as reported here in the Washington Post. Spritam by Aprecia Pharmaceuticals is a drug for treating epilepsy seizures, and the tablet was created via 3D printing. It is set to be launched in 2016, and more drugs are going to be printed in the future.
When will 3D printers go mainstream?
With all of these exciting innovations, it is no wonder that so many people want to see 3D printers go mainstream. And it is just around the corner. They are already being widely used in various industries, and although they have not yet become common items in every home, that is surely only a matter of time.
You may want to get one for yourself, whether for your home or for your business, and you can certainly use a 3D printer for many things even without taking advantage of all the above innovations.
Just make sure you read up on some reviews if you are thinking about getting a 3D printer for your home or office. Just like anything else, models vary in price and quality, so make sure you find the right one for you.
The Future is 3D
3D printing is one of the most exciting technologies around at the moment. Although it is still very much in its infancy, it is being increasingly used in a wide range of applications from replacement teeth to prescription drugs, and it is clear that is is going to have a huge impact on our lives in the years to come.
These exciting innovations are just the start, so expect to see more breakthroughs made in 3D printing over the coming years that could have a huge impact on the way we live our lives.
Colin Holmes is a blogger at Review 3D Printers. He has been blogging since Oct 2014. He enjoys reviewing the latest products in the 3d market. He uses his Makerbot 3d printer to make gifts and gadgets for family and friends.