If you’ve been keeping track of recent scientific advancements, you’ve probably heard something about 3D printing, which some are calling the “future of manufacturing.” Given a design, machines will take a building material, most commonly plastic, and create a model of the object in the design. As we speak, more and more innovations in 3D printing are being introduced, and the science is being perfected. Here are five of the latest advances.
1. Prosthetic Hands
Hands are probably one of the most common 3D-printed prosthetics that are being produced right now. While a 3D printer cannot crank out the whole hand by itself, many separate parts can be printed inexpensively and assembled quickly. Now, most 3D-printed prosthetic hands are not nearly as functional as their more expensive alternatives, but that it slowly changing. A man named Patrick Slade has recently been developing a prosthetic hand called “Tact.” This design makes the hand more reliable by providing a more sophisticated moving and grasping system for the fingers. Who knows? In the future, people may end up with 3D-printed prosthetic hands that look and act like Luke Skywalker’s.
MX3D, a company located in Amsterdam, has been planning to 3D-print a pedestrian bridge over a canal using molten steel and resins. The printers, of which there are two, are known as “multiple-axis directional printing robots,” and are often used in automobile manufacturing. The robots will construct the bridge by starting on either side and meeting in the middle. In preparation, the company has run multiple tests and created multiple models. The real project is expected to begin in September. If it is successful, it will be the beginning of a revolution in 3D printing.
What if one could find a way and the materials to make 3D printed and fully-edible food? Well, some already have. Food companies, professional cooks, and even NASA are excited about the future of 3D-printed food, as it could be used to make food more cheaply, send it into space, and help solve world hunger. While it’s a difficult challenge to solve, 3D printing food by using materials like sugars and proteins could revolutionize cooking and catering. Already, foods like pizza doughs, noodles, and even burgers and brownies have been created by 3D printers. So maybe 3D printing food isn’t as far off as we think.
This innovation has the potential to change the way we create 3D-printed objects. Commonly, 3D printers are large boxes or cases with robotic machinery inside, moving around to lay the plastic and create the model. But not 3Doodler. A project started on Kickstarter, this device is actually a large pen with the tip of a 3D printing machine. In essence, users will be “drawing” their creations on surfaces and in midair. The 3Doodler is extremely versatile and can be used on pretty much any surface. It will not have the same printing capabilities as more advanced machines, but the device will, if successful, be able to create cheap crafts, gifts, ornaments, and the like. The creators even claim that it can be used for minor repair work. So even though the 3Doodler does not have the same abilities as more advanced machinery, it is still a step closer to bringing the world of 3D printing possibilities to the general public.
Yes, 3D-printing technology is benefitting technology itself. A recent technological advancement known as “3D electrohydrodynamic inkjet printing” has been able to produce curved and flexible plastic circuit boards and computer chips. Due to the nature of 3D printing, it has been possible to make such devices even thinner than normal, which may lead to advancements in lighter tech, wearable devices, and things of that nature. But devices such as these are not the only techy items to be 3D-printable. Machines such as small aerial drones have been created. One was even shown off in a press video introducing the Microsoft HoloLens, using a program in Windows 10 to “holographically” create a working model that can be 3D printed and actually flown.
These innovations in 3D printing are not nearly all of the ones out there. They are, however, a sample of what is to come in the future of manufacturing. Did we miss any?