The Use of 3D Printers in Various Fields

Lately I have become more interested in 3D printers with our discussion regarding the structure sensor. 3D printers are continuing to evolve and their use is slowly becoming more noticeable. The possibilities of what you could do with a 3D printer appear endless. There is no denying that we will be seeing an abundance of 3D printing done in the near future. Recently I read an article that described how surgeons used a 3D printed model of an infant’s heart in order to prepare for a life-saving operation. The doctors used the MRI scan data to create a copy of the baby’s heart so that it could be examined before the surgery. This enabled the doctors to study the heart and to map their operation out. Before using 3D printers to create a copy of the heart, doctors had to do two operations, one in order to inspect the heart, and another to do the surgery. The reconstruction of the heart done by a 3D printer allows doctors to study a unique heart. It saves time, resources, and makes it safer for the patient.

Here is what the heart look liked:

3D printed heart

Thanks to this advanced technology, the surgery was a success and the infant’s life was saved. I find the application of 3D printing in the medical field to be incredibly fascinating. This example goes to show that 3D printing could possibly revolutionize the medical field. Printable skin, blood vessels, organs, embryonic stem cells, jaws, false teeth, hip joints, and replacement knees are all possible to be manufactured with a 3D printer in the future. This technological breakthrough can save lives and further enhance the quality of life. Imagine being able to live longer or the ability to save your loved ones during medical issues. The use of 3D printing in medicine is very exciting but there is an ethical concern attached to it. Some people worry that the quality of organs produced will not be adequate and that it would be difficult to control who has the ability to produce them.

3D printed jawA 3D Printed Jaw 

The use of 3D printers is not limited to medicine. The automotive industry has started to use 3D printers to assist with the manufacturing process of vehicles. 3D printing is also used to create prototype parts during the design phase. As a car enthusiast, I cannot wait to see what the industry will do with 3D printing. Looking down the road, I would like to have the opportunity to print out my own parts and accessories for my car. It would be cool if users could share different modifications online and anyone could print them out and put them on their vehicles. That would completely revolutionize the car industry. If you need a part, why not print it?

3D printed card

A 3D Printed Car

3D printing has been used in modeling, apparel, electric motors, firearms, art, and many more fields. Stratasys is currently the largest manufacturer of commercial-made 3D printers. If you are interested in creating a homemade 3D printer, an entry-level one will cost you around $250-$300. The use of 3D printing is expanding everyday.

Below is a chart that shows 3D printing revenues for the fiscal year of 2012:

3D printer revenue

As the pie chart indicates, the majority of revenue came from consumer products and electronics, followed by motor vehicles. There seems to not be a market that is not affected by 3D printing. Which bring me to my next topic dealing with the structure sensor and 3D printing. The structure sensor allows users to take 3D models of objects and to import them into CAD or other programs for 3D printing. You want to print out a little figurehead of your face? You can do that with the structure sensor and a 3D printer. In essence, this is what I will be doing for my final project.

3D printer people figures

This Could Be You

As I mentioned previously in this blog, the things you can do with a 3D printer are limitless. In terms of Digital humanities and our discussion about Pompeii, you could essentially print out a mini duplicate of Pompeii. This would allow for a more hands-on learning experience that is interactive and provides the learner with something physical to see and touch. I believe that 3D printers are step in the right direction for the future of society. Although there is a good amount of legal and ethical concern surrounding them, I think their use provides more benefits than drawbacks. Do you think everyone will have a 3D printer at home in 25 years? I am looking forward to seeing how the 3D market develops.

Check out these cool links about 3D printing:

  1. Using the structure sensor to capture an object and then using a 3D printer to print it out: http://3dprintingindustry.com/2014/08/21/two-part-review-2-3d-scanners-part-2-structure-sensor-occipital/
  2. A video describing the 3D printing revolution: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IS4Xw8f9LCc
  3. Medical breakthroughs using 3D printing: http://www.businessinsider.com/medical-breakthroughs-using-3d-printing-2014-8
  4. First 3D printed car: http://mashable.com/2014/09/16/first-3d-printed-car/
  5. TED talk on printing a human kidney: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RMx31GnNXY
  6. A guide describing how to make your own 3D printer: http://www.3ders.org/3d-printer/how-to-build-3d-printer.html

-Nik N.

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