Only a few short years ago, the concept of 3D printing seemed completely alien to most people. Since then, it has established itself more in the public eye and the media. It is becoming an increasingly important technology for prototyping and manufacturing, particularly in the aviation sector.
There is no shortage of amazing things that can be printed, as we discovered in our previous article. And whilst there are some financial and practical limitations to 3D printing’s widespread adoption, the rapid advancement of 3D printing technology in such a short space of time suggests that these limitations could be overcome sooner rather than later. Improvements and cost cuts are set to bring 3D printing into the mass market and even your home in the very near future.
And when this happens? The possibilities are endless. 3D printing has the potential to transform your home, your car, and even your food. Which raises a very exciting question... What does the future of 3D printing look like?
3D Printing to Power Factories
Compared to conventional mass production methods, many experts believe that 3D printing will actually overtake power large-scale factory production in the future. Given that additive manufacturing (the process of 3D printing) has the potential to produce higher-quality parts more quickly and cost-effectively than current factory production, the manufacturing industry as a whole is set to be revolutionised. Factories will also have the ability to produce larger and more complex items from premium materials such as aluminium, titanium and other metals.
But which industries would benefit most from this? The automotive sector is one of the first. Car parts are expensive and time-consuming to produce, but by harnessing 3D printing this process could become cheaper and quicker for both manufacturers and consumers alike.
A New Era in Medicine
Another important yet surprising potential of 3D printing is its impact on health and medicine. There are so many complex medical applications that could be simplified with the help of 3D printing that many believe it will usher in a new era in medicine.
Customised medicines: Multiple pills could be combined into one, eliminating the need for the patient to take lots of pills throughout the course of the day. This singular pill would contain all of the drugs the patient needs and each one would be designed to release into the bloodstream at different times.
Bioprinting: Human tissue structures could be printed. Replacement body parts like ears or small arteries and veins could get rid of the need for some organ transplants. There is also the potential to print entire organs in the future.
Tailored prosthetics: Custom prosthetics could be tailor-made to fit the body size and shape of each individual patient rather than a one size fits all approach.
Practicing surgery: Surgeons could practise operations on 3D printed models of organs. This would mean operations could be completed more quickly and more efficiently, minimising risk to the patient and cutting the cost of using the operating theatre.
Customised 3D Printing at Home
Whilst many larger industries are set to benefit from 3D printing in the future, this technology could quickly become a fundamental part of every household too.
But why would you want a 3D printer for your home? Imagine you’ve bought a new appliance but you’ve broken part of it. Rather than send the product off for repair or wait for the manufacturer to deliver the spare part, you would be able to download the file for it and print it off at home. There would also be the potential for items that you buy to be personalised to your preference and then printed off.
Eventually, the possibilities for 3D printing at home could become almost limitless. Even food could be commonplace! Restaurants are already experimenting with using edible filaments and printing their food, which suggests that such technology could ultimately save homeowners lots of time and effort spent on cooking.
The falling prices of 3D printers have seen a rise in the number of them being used in schools. Interesting and practical uses of 3D printing in the classroom would play an important role in developing future talent in the STEM field, an area where there is currently a skills shortage. Being able to quickly and easily go from a concept to a physical prototype will improve students' skills in engineering and design.
Given its potential to span multiple industries, home, work, education and medicine, the future of 3D printing looks very exciting. We have looked at just a glimpse of what the future could look like and it's not an overstatement to say that it could transform the world we live in. It’s no surprise that huge brands like General Electric and Adidas have already invested hundreds of millions of pounds in the technology.
New applications will come about as the capability of printing increases and evolves over time. The process will become so sophisticated that the only limitation to what can be printed will be our imagination.
As with any new technology, there will always be some issues that will need to be addressed. Relying predominantly on CAD software and AI for printing will have cybersecurity implications. It’s also still a slow-moving and expensive industry. But with prices already dropping and technology constantly improving, you could argue that the future is already here.
Technology Outlet has a fantastic range of 3D printers from some of the biggest brands on the market. We have complete build & ready to print entry-level printers starting from £199.00.