3D printing has been featured on virtually even major blog and news organization. Even consumer giant Amazon now offers a 3D printing landing page as they are attempting to bring 3D printers into consumer households. At 247inktoner, we've even featured how this technology impacts medical fields. But what other innovative things can 3D printing do? Why do these innovations matter? And what limitations, if any, are there to this technology?
The sky is not the limit.
One of the most exciting applications of 3D printing has been in the creation of space technology. What advantage does this have for astronauts in space? As The Daily Star reported, these printers "greatly reduce the need for astronauts to load up with every tool, spare part or supply they might ever need." Due to the unique challenges of space travel, a Silicon Valley startup called Made In Space retrofitted these printers to handle specific vibrations and pressure changes. Though there are still in-flight tests to be conducted, there are now officially no limits to where 3D printers can go.
The wheels on the bus go round and round.
Another exciting application is in the automotive industry. Maybe the wheels themselves are being 3D printed (yet!), but auto giants such as General Motors and Ford are using prototypes and other models to aid in the car building process. One company has even designed the Urbee 2 entirely from 3D printers. Though it is highly futuristic in its design and not available for purchase, the team wants to drive the completed product across the country soon. In just a few years, maybe that car next to you on the road could be made from a 3D printer.
Put down that (3D printed) rifle.
No matter your views on guns and gun production, it's important recognize how 3D printers are impacting this industry. As Forbes explained in a recent article, "Defense Distributed is a high tech gunsmith group that created the world’s first fully open-sourced 3D printed gun called the 'Liberator.'" For many who seek to strengthen regulations on guns in the wake of mass shootings, the speed of this new gun production could foil attempts to limit distribution. Also, because laws are generally established with very unique stipulations, manufacturers of 3D printed guns might be able to bypass this legislation.
Moving forward, the biggest obstacle to seeing widespread use of 3D printers in all industries is the high cost. However, as more and more large companies raise the profile of 3D printing, these costs are going down, making the printing market one of the most exciting and dynamic since the invention of the modern desktop printer. Feel free to share your own thoughts on the applications of 3D printing below! Let us know what you like, what you dislike, or any other questions you might have.