The 2010s have seen the spread of a revolutionary concept: 3D printing. However the idea itself is not so new, as the invention of 3D printing dates back to the 1980s, but has only become available to the general public over the last few years ago.
3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) is based on a really simple idea. Once you are in possession of 3D blueprints of an object, you can use a 3D printer in order to build said object. You can even design an object’s blueprints yourself with the help of CAD software. The printer will then break up the digital file into layers of data, which will be printed on top of one another until the final object is formed.
The field of applications is endless. 3D printers can use a wide range of materials, and 3D printer owners and designers are continuously finding more creative and useful ways to exploit the true potential of this tool.
A few months ago Mark Ebeling, founder of Californian non-profit organization Not Impossible Labs, came up with a life-changing idea after hearing about the story of a Sudanese boy who had lost his arms in a bombing. Ebeling was so moved by the story – which is sadly only one among so many others – that he decided to bring 3D printing equipment to Sudan and print inexpensive prosthetic limbs for people who were left handicapped by the war, starting with the boy. Even though the limbs were cheap and only restored a small amount of motor functions for the patients, it changed the lives of those deeply wounded by the war and finally gave them a chance to lead a more normal life.
However, while 3D printing brings a lot of wonderful ideas to life, it also comes with a few drawbacks. 3D models are easily accessible via the Internet and an increase in counterfeit goods could quickly become a big problem. Potentially nothing could prevent someone from setting up a large-scale counterfeit production unit equipped with 3D printers, and the proliferation of such goods could lead to a dramatic fall in the market success of the genuine original items. Even with the best intentions in mind, the use of such tools may negatively impact the lives of those in the manufacturing industry and create financial difficulties for the industry as a whole.
3D printing has its advantages and drawbacks, but that can be said about almost anything. One of the most interesting emerging ideas within this sector is bioprinting. What if we were able to print replacement organs for those who urgently needed them? That’s what some companies are starting to think about, and if successful, could lead to a bigger revolution than 3D printing itself.
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