3D printing, or additive manufacturing, has been a popular buzz word in the manufacturing community over the past few decades. The phrase can evoke many different images and meanings to people depending on their understanding or experience with the subject. 3D printing has a vast number of applications and innovative features, making it a highly discussed topic everywhere.

So, what exactly is 3D printing? 3D printing is three-dimensional printing used for making three-dimensional objects like plastic parts, vases, or phone cases. Instead of cutting out an object from a big plastic block, 3D printing creates an object by layering thin materials on top of each other.  Instructed by a computer program, the 3D machine places materials where it is told and continues to add layer by layer to create the final product. In this article, we will explore the origin of 3D printing, why it’s important, and what it might look like for us the future.

3D printing was first introduced in 1983 by a man named Chuck Hull. At the time, Hull was making top coatings for tables using UV technology.  He experimented for months after believing there was a way to use UV technology to quickly turn computer designs into working prototypes. From there he discovered stereolithography and the ability for UV layers to solidify photopolymers.  Now companies use 3D printing with various types of materials and projects.

3D printing is useful for many reasons.  First, 3D printing can often reduce the time it takes to produce an item. In the fashion world, for example, it can be hard to keep up with the seasonal trends and fads. However with 3D printing, it is easier to market new styles to customers quicker than ever before.  3D printing decreases production time is by allowing the item to be created in-house. If a company is out of a specific part, they can simply print the part in their own building using a 3D printer and eliminate the time it takes to ship and deliver the new part to their facility.

In addition to faster products, 3D printing is also advantageous for precise and personalized parts. The medical field has used 3D printing for making sculpted dental implants, prosthetics and hearing aids.  In the future, researchers want to use bioprinters to make cartilage, skin and other issues. New research and testing has found this process to be successful on animals already.

It’s hard to believe this is only the beginning of what 3D printing can do for us. The future of 3D printing holds many amazing promises to improve the quality of our lives. For example, treating cancer can be one of the most difficult things for doctors to do. Every year millions of people die from aggressive forms of cancer. But in the coming years, scientists are projected to be able to print multiple versions of a patient’s tumor to test multiple mixtures of drugs to determine which treatment will work best before administering the drugs to the patient.

3D printing is transforming the way we live, the way we work, and the way we imagine the future. It’s just one example of how a creative idea can be turned into an innovative practice we use today. It goes to show the importance of always asking questions and experimenting, because you never know what new inventions may come of it.

 

Image found on The Economist

Image found on The Economist

Resources

Declan, Tobin. ” Fun Facts About 3D Printing For Kids .” Easy Science for Kids, Oct 2017. Web. 20 Oct 2017. http://easyscienceforkids.com/what-is-3d-printing-facts-for-kids-video/

“3D Printers Start to Build Factories of the Future.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, 29 June 2017, www.economist.com/news/briefing/21724368-recent-advances-make-3d-printing-powerful-competitor-conventional-mass-production-3d.

Ponsford, By Matthew, and Nick Glass. “’The Night I Invented 3D Printing’.” CNN, Cable News Network, 14 Feb. 2014, www.cnn.com/2014/02/13/tech/innovation/the-night-i-invented-3d-printing-chuck-hall/index.html

Slavin, Tim. “What Is 3D Printing? | Kids, Code, and Computer Science.” Beanz, Beanz, 31 Jan. 2015, www.kidscodecs.com/what-is-3d-printing/.

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