When 3D printing first began to become familiar to the public a few years ago, it seemed like something out of a sci-fi film. The idea that we could simply input designs and see them transformed into material form felt like a major technological advancement with a world of exciting implications. Since then, news and headlines about 3D printing have been surprisingly subdued, however, and consumer applications have been few and far between. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t all sorts of interesting things that have been happening surrounding this exciting technology.
Here in particular are five things you might not know about 3D printing, but which demonstrate its progress and intrigue.
1. 3D Printing Is Good For The Environment
As with most anything that stakes a claim to eco-friendliness, 3D printing has its skeptics where this point is concerned. In a few fundamental ways, however, the technology is undeniably beneficial. Perhaps most importantly, it stands to significantly reduce material waste, potentially for production efforts across entire, large industries. Even the most efficient manufacturing processes tend to result in plenty of wasted, excess material; by nature, 3D printing uses only the material it needs to create a product.
Beyond the responsible nature of its basic processes, 3D printing can also produce materials that are beneficial to the environment. The Recycler pointed out in a 2018 article that these materials can include coral reefs and seawalls used to repair underwater ecosystems. But beyond exciting concepts like those, it stands to reason that we could see innumerable 3D-printed products designed for environmental benefit.
2. 3D Printing Can Support Entire Product Lines
This may not seem like the most surprising point on this list, but a lot of people still think of 3D printing on a fairly small scale. They imagine using their own affordable 3D printers for this and that, or think of artists and design studios undergoing their own creative endeavors through the technology. However, 3D printing has also improved to the point that it can now be used by entire companies to efficiently create product lines.
Naturally, it depends somewhat on the specific product at hand, but it’s the efficiency that really marks the improvement over the last few years. According to Fictiv, high resolution prototypes and 3D-printed parts can be delivered in as fast as one day, making it easy for businesses to rely on printing services to mass-produce products. Those same services can also provide quick quotes and on-the-go quality control, ensuring the whole process goes as smoothly as possible.
3. Material Variety Enables Art & Jewelry
A lot of people hardly give a thought to what materials are actually used in 3D printing. Even if they did, they’d mostly just find lists of hybrids and specialty materials that were specifically useful in the early days of 3D printing. At the same time, however, there are always more materials being used in 3D printing, which in turn is expanding the tech’s applications. Even a few years ago, Huffington Post pointed to some astounding examples of 3D-printed art using a variety of different materials, and more recently the introduction of more metals has made it possible for high-quality jewelry to be 3D printed. So, to sum this point up, 3D printing isn’t all about carbon fiber, nylons, and hybrids. There are more materials being used, and with them more artistic designs being printed.
4. There Are Already Applications In Fitness
In October of last year, an article here covered various ways to use technology to get fit: setting up a Spotify playlist, downloading a highly rated fitness app, etc. 3D printing doesn’t make for this direct of a technological application, but it does have the potential to impact our fitness in a broader, and perhaps more important way. Already, in fact, the technology is being used to print out everything from weight racks to jump ropes. Over time, it could significantly overhaul many categories of fitness equipment, and in doing so make it cheaper for people to purchase the exercise-related products they want or need.
5. 3D Printing May Shape Our Cities
This idea is a little more “out there,” so to speak, but it’s also a very real concept that’s being discussed more and more. Several years ago in fact The Guardian speculated about the possibilities of 3D-printed architecture as a housing solution, both for slums in need of updated housing, and for disaster-stricken communities in need of relief. And since then, the technology has only grown more impressive. This is not to suggest that we’ll see gigantic 3D printers literally producing buildings. However, the idea of 3D-printed parts being used to assemble homes, public buildings, and various components of city infrastructure is no longer far-fetched at all.