Have you ever 3D printed before? If not, then you don’t know what you are missing. The very first time you use this device, you will get hooked. If you are a seasoned veteran of this technology, then you already know the innumerable possibilities and uses of 3D printing. While some predictions might seem like something out of Star Trek, a lot of the creations are not quite far-fetched.
A 3D printed organ? A 3D printed house for $4,000? A 3D printed drug? It is all within the realm of possibility. They might not happen tomorrow, but what is to say they will not become ubiquitous in the next 10 or 20 years?
Now would be an appropriate time to look into the future. Here are the seven trends to watch for in the future of 3D printing:
1. Trend #1: 3D Printed Houses
Over the last year, one of the most interesting developments in the 3D printing market has been the creation of houses. In a famous example, a creative person was able to 3D print an entire home for just $4,000. This is a remarkable trend that could solve the housing affordability crisis inflicting North America.
Of course, 3D printed homes are still in their infancy period, they will inevitably become common practice in the future years, especially as property developers find ways to rein in costs.
2. Trend #2: One Person, One 3D Printer
If you participate in the 3D printing community, then you will likely have noticed people talking about the democratisation of this technological advancement. So, how exactly do you democratise the future of 3D printing? Well, it is simple to a democracy where it is one person one vote: one person, one 3D printer.
By having 3D printing prevalent throughout the globe, you could establish new opportunities for innovation. Sure, you might not produce patented technologies in your living room (yet), but you can find ways to improve your lives, as well as the lives of consumers with unique creations.
3. Trend #3: 3D Printed Shoes
Orthotics – the development and usage of artificial devices like splints and braces to support the neuromuscular and skeletal system – is already adopting 3D imaging. It is common practice in clinics that specialise in this area of medicine. But what about 3D technology? That, too!
There are start-ups that are partnering with footwear brands to print customised orthotics. Typically, a patient undergoes a computer vision-enhanced foot scanner and then a technician composes a blueprint. Then, inserting the necessary calculations, the 3D printer creates a shoe.
4. Trend #4: 3D Printed Food
Wait a minute…You can eat architectural chocolates and biomimicking pastries? It’s true! Food companies are taking advantage of 3D printing to print food using natural ingredients. Or, bakers are installing these machines to assist in decorating desserts and sweets.
Like housing, this is one of the most important advancements in the industry because it can tackle a lot of the hunger problems we face around the world.
5. Trend #5: 3D Art
For 3D printing enthusiasts, a common usage for the technology is art creation, whether it is a sculpture or a new fashion design. There are many artistic practices for 3D printing. Some might argue that this may not necessarily be art because a machine is creating, not the individual. But we will leave that discussion for another day.
6. Trend #6: 3D Medical Uses
The medical community is experimenting with the future of 3D printing because of its ability to manufacture human tissue. While it is still in the beginning stages that require fine-tuning and further improvements, bioprinting is used to produce cartilage and skin, primarily for research purposes.
Your average 3D printing sitting in someone’s basement might not create a heart or a lung anytime soon. However, we are on the ground floor of complex bioprinting mechanisms that can solve many health care problems, especially for those who are on a waiting list for a kidney.
7. Trend #7: 3D Printed Drugs
Although it is in its research and development stage, 3D printed drugs will likely revolutionise the pharmaceutical industry and drastically enhance medical care. Right now, researchers are coming up with consumable medicine with 3D printing. It does require different technologies to complement the process, but everyone is optimistic that pharmaceuticals could eventually come down in cost thanks to 3D printing.
3D printing is likely one of the most fascinating and exciting developments on the technology front. While the smartphone has improved our lives on many fronts, 3D printing could very much transform society for the better. From better health care to cheaper pharmaceuticals, the possibilities are endless Remember, we are still in the first- and second-generation phase of 3D printing, so you can only imagine what it would be like once we reach the third, fourth, or fifth generation. It is astounding what 3D printing will do to our lives.