New forms of technology are taking the world by storm. Scientists of all kinds are constantly working to build electronics that change the way people are currently doing things. One device that has been dominating over the years is the 3D printer. This is considered a relatively new form of machinery but has been around since the 1980s. It started out closed to the public, although it may take the same path of commonality as the internet. Beginning as a concept that only “smart” people would use, it is now what the newer generation’s lives rely on. With very valuable advancements coming to 3D printing, it is likely that it will provide a tremendous, positive impact on humanity. The machinery of 3D printing has current uses and future uses that are extremely beneficial to society.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the method of producing solid objects from a digital prototype. It’s simple and fast manufacturing allows work that could normally take weeks to be completed in a matter of hours. This is achieved by, “[using] a layering technique where an object is constructed layer by layer until the complete object is manufactured” (Mawere 2148). Deviating from mass production, 3D printers able to create any object needed without the assembly line. With this change in work methods, things are being assembled much easier.
This process works through many different techniques. The main form of technology is known as stereolithography, a process where models are created layer by layer. It uses photopolymers, a substance that changes its properties based on the type of light it is exposed to,that absorb a metal platform and an ultraviolet light traces the shape of the first layer, a small layer of the photopolymer covers the object as the light hardens the second layer (Templeton). This method is mainly used for ceramics and is not considered the most favorable procedure. Another form of printing came after this known as extrusion deposition, the simplest approach. To visualize it, “A robot nozzle moves about, squeezing out a plastic building material like a very, very precisely controlled hot glue gun” (Templeton). A hardened layer is then created and laid on top of another to create a sculpted object. To do more distinct formations, selective laser sintering is used. In this process, a part of the building material is released as a form of aerosol, then a timed laser fuses this building material to the object being printed. Simultaneously, a selective laser melts, which is extremely similar but it melts part of the building material rather than fusing it (Templeton). Many more procedures exist that are more specialized and expensive. One example is using carbon fiber to print “high-strength parts with low density” (Templeton). Many ways exist to approach how an item will be formed from a 3D printer.
Before producing the actual object, it must be modeled. This can be done through a 3D modelling program known as Computer-Aided Design (CAD). This uses a template to design something from the ground up. A scanner copies the object and puts it into a program where it is separated into an abundance of layers, each layer is analyzed by the printer so when completed, the layers are invisible and a three-dimensional object is created (Marwere). These various programs of design are how society progresses today. Although many aspects have already been created to improve the technological world, there are still many adaptations to come for the 3D printer. The plans for the future are fascinating. This industry expects to only keep rising and become more available to all. With more research being done, even more impressive advancements to the world of medicine are in the making.
Additive manufacturing has already accomplished a lot today with many current uses in many diverse areas. Civil engineering makes a strong argument for its use, it found that 3D printers considerably minimize time and costs in construction. For example, “3D printing technology will allow the construction of buildings faster and save up to 23% of the cost of construction and up to 25% of the construction time when accounting for the construction of a single-storey cottage without interior finishing and the installation of utility networks” (Shatornaya 28). By using a layer-by-layer approach, walls will be put up for a much lower price and be done three times as fast. Safety in building homes is still taken into consideration because the technology of the printers almost exactly replicates stable concrete structures (Shatornaya 27). In general, additive manufacturing is immensely profitable to civil engineering.
Another important current use of 3D printing derives from the medical field. According to Cephas Mawere’s journal on the impact of 3D printing, bounteous ways exist for this technology being used today. For instance, hearing aids and bionics were created from this machinery through electronics in order to assist the deaf. The printers also have an incredible use in biology to have parts imprinted onto the body such as titanium splints. Copies of tissue are made in order to print 3D blood vessels, which is achieved through a network of hydrophilic polymers. Angiogenesis and the use of embryonic stem cells helps achieve this process by forming new blood vessels by modeling pre-existing cells. Starting with small, intricate body parts leads to bigger possibilities of fully functioning artificial organs. It can be a huge help to calamity victims or the disabled who need prosthetics. This field is normally expensive, but printing can greatly reduce the costs. 3D printing has also been very active in stem cell research to create artificial organs. This was experimented by looking at cells in the embryonic stage and has not been officially tested yet (Mawere 2149-2150).
A transplant list for organ donation could become a thing of the past. Rather than waiting on other people, patients will wait on a machine. This is even better in terms of rejection, the organ is created exactly how the patient needs it. This also improves timing in that doctors will not have to worry about the patient’s body rejecting the organ. Just as the printer was able to transplant tissue, it is working on to do the same with human skin Within the same realm of stem cell research, hospitals potentially rely on additive manufacturing for skin grafting. Skin grafting can be an agonizing process, but printing skin directly onto the wounds by layer helps solve this issue (Mawere 2151). Rather than removing skin from one area and putting it onto another, new printed layers are used.
Aside from medicine, other modern uses are beneficial according to Mawere’s journal. One example is in home life, people’s jewelry and ornate objects can start to be printed from home rather than bought at a store. In today’s world, going out to shop and be active is considered a drag. Picking exactly what is wanted and experiencing the process first hand appeals much more to people in present time. This also applies to buying plastic such as childrens’ toys. This process is also used with clothing. Not many 3D printed clothes have sold yet, but companies like Nike have are experimenting for commercial use. It also helps with education; students can create figures such as shapes to count and measure, or visual aids to study from demonstrating a much more functional way of learning (Mawere 2150). With all of these uses today, they can enhance the world immensely.
Many benefits of these uses occur in society today. For instance, 3D printing is known as a cheap and easy method because that is exactly what it entails. As stated in the civil engineering journal, a much lower cost and time requirement is needed when using this method. By printing the objects people need themselves and having it done directly rather than waiting weeks for people to build, it saves a substantial amount of time and money. Therefore, it is an exceptionally efficient method. Another benefit is the printer’s tangible design, it does not just use one material to create, a variety that can be useful. An additional advantage of this arrangement is that the material lasts a great deal of time. Hence, when the product is used for long periods of time, damage will not be evident. (Mawere 2150). As stated earlier in the construction evidence, the printers work to create models that have the same stability and structure of what they are replicating. This provides evidence that 3D printers generate quality items. Being able to replicate formats, it becomes very practical. The need to draw out examples on paper diminishes, scientists can work with realistic models (Mawere 2150). Numerous assets exist in the current application of additive manufacturing. With these advantages already set, it predicts that even more impressive breakthroughs may occur in the future.
Another area where 3D printing advancements has high demand is the field of ecology. With timeliness and cost-effectiveness, ecologists will see a great positive impact. The process of finding and reconstructing fossils will become much more adequate.To collect data on the specimen being observed, it requires a lot of customized equipment. One of the main benefits this could have is interpreting the biological structures of organisms through models, rather than using the actual live animal (Behm 2). Another potential benefit, as discussed before, is speed. An example from the BMC Ecology Journal is when paleontologists construct skeletons, a problem that often comes up is missing parts at the site of the remains. With a 3D model, the complete skeleton could be assembled. This would expedite the process of building these structures and ease the access to difficult or rare species. It also makes associations in the scientific community easier by creating the models so quickly (Behm 10). Implementing this process into ecological research is very cost-effective with not having to gather as much material, and is more timely.
3D printing contains many hopeful benefits for humanity. One idea is the goal of a food printer. Anjan Contractor, the CEO of BeeHix Inc., hopes for his invention to one day give people “customized, nutritionally-appropriate meals synthesized one layer at a time, from cartridges of powder and oils they buy at the corner grocery store” (Rosenthal). This changs the process of both food production and consumption while minimizing costs. Another way to help in store is tending to disaster areas and refugees. For instance, an example mentioned in Rosenthal’s article is that the United States plans to utilize 3D printing in their plan of responding to natural disasters. This could be accomplished by “printing customized pipe parts necessary for sanitary infrastructure” (Rosenthal). This gives the people assisting all the tools they need in order to save whatever needs saving. It would not matter if they did not have an appliance on hand, because they could print it. Immediate access is a key part of this new technology, lives can be saved much quicker.
Health and the environment also contains many constructive impacts. For instance, the idea of the food printer can revolutionize hunger and homelessness. Contractor’s idea stated to “be easy to transport, long lasting, and could be made of sustainable materials like insect protein” (Rosenthal). 3D printing being more available to the public will encourage people in the fight against homelessness to help the people around them. A bonus to the environment is if tenable materials are used to manufacture, often these items are reusable and will not cause damage to ecosystems. A final point with this idea is that it is designed to produce healthy meals. Having food produced in reasonable quantities and suitable nutrition assists in boosting healthy lifestyles.
The environment can experience significant effects by using these old, sustainable materials. For example, it was found that, “researchers have figured out how to convert carbon dioxide into concrete using 3D printing” (Rosenthal). Not only will it use better materials, but the actual process is atmosphere friendly. Using algae-based filaments has been researched in order to reduce the amount of energy needed to print objects (Rosenthal). Almost as if a chain reaction, this then improves issues of climate change and more productive lifestyles.
The most important part of the future of 3D printing is making it accessible to all. Currently, most articles state that additive manufacturing is limited to universities and laboratories of their constructors. However, if any of these amazing advancements are going to occur to help society, people need the connection and experience with these machines. The United Nations and agencies within additive manufacturing are conducting research in order to make this happen (Rosenthal). Once the ordinary people have their hands on this revolutionary device, society will experience endless enhancements.
There have been massive amounts of beneficial changes to society already, and there are only more to come. Both current and future uses of this technology can be very useful in how people construct things in this world. Through construction, medicine, clothing, ecology, human needs, and more, our world will change for the good. As more research is conducted, the more common and accessible 3D printing will become. This machinery completely changed the game of manufacturing in ways that have not been seen in a long time. In just a matter of time, 3D printing can be just as common as the use of the internet. These lifelong impacts are only making the future brighter, one layer at a time.
Behm, Jocelyn E., et al. “Benefits and Limitations of Three-Dimensional Printing Technology for Ecological Research.” BMC Ecology, vol. 18, no. 1, 2018, pp. 32-13.
Mawere, Cephas. (2014). The Impact and Application of 3D Printing Technology. International Journal of Science and Research (IJSR).
Rosenthal, Annie. “How 3D Printing Could Revolutionize the Future of Development.” Medium, SocialGood, 1 May 2018, medium.com/@plus_socialgood/how-3d-printing-could-revolutionize-the-future-of-development-54a270d6186d.
Shatornaya, A. M., Chislova, M. M., Drozdetskaya, M. A., & Ptuhina, I. S. (2017). Efficiency of 3D printers in civil engineering. Stroitel’Stvo Unikal’Nyh Zdanij i Sooruzenij, (9), 22-30. doi:http://dx.doi.org.wilkes.idm.oclc.org/10.18720/CUBS.60.2
Templeton, Graham. “How does 3D printing work?”. EXTREMETECH.com, 26 October 2015, https://advance-lexis-com.wilkes.idm.oclc.org/api/document?collection=news&id=urn:contentItem:5H7W-SVF1-JB7F-M0H6-00000-00&context=1516831. Accessed October 7, 2019.