A good portion of this website consists of me trying to make a point about the awesomeness of 3D printing, explaining in detail how it works and why I consider it to be groundbreaking technology. Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found the practical examples to be more engaging than learning the theory and this is mainly the idea behind this very page.
If you’re sick and tired of guides and informational pages, because you’ve already read them thoroughly and now you want something “meatier”, I will support my 3D printing praise with some astonishing examples which caught my eye. These go beyond home use, but fear not, since I’ve got you covered with a page of basic examples as well.
1) 3D-Printed Foot for Buttercup the Duck
From mashable.com – 3D-Printed Duck Foot
Let’s start with a heartwarming story. Ducks from all around the world, if you don’t feel like living, 3D printing can make life easier! Buttercup the duck was born with a backwards left foot, unable to ever walk properly. His caretakers from Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary weren’t ready to give up on him and so, the odyssey of getting a new foot began.
Fortunately for Buttercup, they were not alone in this since a 3D-printing company called NovaCopy saved the day and printed a replica of the left foot of Buttercup’s sister as a reference. With that print, the Feathered Angels molded a silicone foot which fitted perfectly. They attached the foot with the help of a nylon retaining screw and that was all Buttercup needed to walk normally for the first time in his life!
2) 3D Printed Organs
From one heartwarming story to another, there is hope for humans as well thanks to 3D printing. Too many patients who are placed on waiting lists for donors die because there aren’t enough organs to save them. As incredible as it sounds, 3D printing can literally save lives and it has already been used to print organs from the patient’s own cells.
Wake Forest’s Regenerative Medicine department is simultaneously working on creating 3D printers which can both print living cells and artificial scaffolds. CT scans contribute to refilling the volume of kidneys through 3D printing. A 3D-printed lung splint was successfully used in treating a child patient named Kaiba, who had breathing and heart stoppages on a daily basis.
After the insertion of the splint, there weren’t any more ventilators required for proper breathing. 3D printing is progressing at a high speed and to think that this is just the beginning, gives me hope that more lives will be saved in the future, without the painful ordeal of being put on a waiting list.
Moving on to more jolly examples, NASA is paying big bucks for the research of 3D-printed food and guess what their prototype is? Pizza! The project is still in its early stages, but the printing method goes like this: building blocks of food are placed in powder cartridges which can be replaced as soon as they are being emptied.
Afterwards, layers of dough will be printed and baked at the same time, followed by a layer with a mixture of water, tomato and oil for the sauce. Finally, on top goes a layer of protein. Now before you start to think this is a useless invention, think of all the astronauts who are in space for long periods of time who needing food. This system could not only provide them with food, but also reduce the food waste and solve the problems of food shortages all around the globe!
4) Hershey 3D-Printed Chocolate Candy
Staying in the food region, I don’t think there is anyone out there who doesn’t chocolate! Hershey teamed up with 3D Systems to make your chocolate eating experience more intriguing, by selling 3D-printed food.
From theverge.com – 3D Printed Candy
Hershey is the first important company of its kind to come to the 3D printing side and if this experiment proves to be successful, be sure that Hershey will let us know they were the first ones to embrace it. As for 3D Systems, it can’t get better than working with the number one chocolate producer in North America. Contrary to what you might believe though, this is not the first attempt at creating 3D-printed chocolate.
David Carr from the MIT Media Lab had a shot at it in 2011, by creating a machine which would take a model of someone’s face and shape a block of chocolate to look like it. But the idea backfired since people weren’t that thrilled at the idea of eating their own face, even if it was made out of chocolate!
5) Urbee 2 – The First Car Built From 3D-Printed Parts
From readwrite.com – Printed Car
Whilst the aesthetics of Urbee 2 (Don’t ask me why it’s called “2” since it’s the first) in the end, it’s the efficiency that matters. Actually, on a second look Urbee 2 is like an orange super-sized pill, which all in all isn’t that bad. It runs on three wheels and is cheaper than any other car available today, not to mention that you also get to save a lot of fuel.
However, don’t expect to see it on the streets anytime soon, because it doesn’t comply with the safety measures yet and it only has 23 horsepower. This is not to say that it can’t be remediated in the future, and the fact that such a car exists is enough to earn its spot on my list.
6) New York City
From gizmodo.com – New York City
No, I’ve not gone mad claiming you can build entire cities from 3D models! However, an Italian company which goes by the name of D-Shape claims it can save parts of New York City which are very close to collapsing. They scan decaying pilings and print concrete pieces which function as supports so the buildings remain intact.
When it comes to stability, New York is shaking pretty badly because the fable pilings don’t stand a chance in the face of powerful storms or that pesky thing called rotting. The reason why pilings are so important is they support the piers edging the city. D-Shape is determined to reinforce them by using a 3D scanner which would accurately determine the shape and size of every piling.
Then, they use a generative algorithm to create a stable and resistant structure for all the pilings. Each column is individually printed and stored in an inflatable raft, and then dragged into the harbor. Finally, the air is slowly released. The whole idea has a price tag of $2.9 billion dollars and is waiting for approval. If it turns out to be a resounding success, it will be the first time 3D printing is used at such a scale.
7) Meat and Leather
We’re back to food territory! I talked about pizza, and I talked about chocolate but what about meat? We are all familiar with the eternal clash of vegetarians and meat-eaters. I’d rather not get caught in that debate, but I’ll admit that vegetarians are right when they say that if we would see how animals end up on our plates, we would probably never touch another slice of meat again.
But guess what? 3D printing can solve that as well. Modern Meadow is working on manufacturing leather and meat without actually harming any animals. Their starting point is the animal tissue, intending on starting with cells instead of animals. Stem-cell samples would be extracted from a biopsy then cultured with the purpose of multiplying them. 3D printed meat would allow me to eat that pork steak without feeling any remorse!
8) A House
From telegraph.co.uk – Printed House
Home sweet 3D-printed home! Can you imagine living in your own cheap, but fancy house, entirely made out of 3D models? While this sounds like a futuristic idea, it’s not that far-fetched and chances are we won’t even have to wait that long for it. Designer Alastair Parvain, is determined to turn this concept into a reality through his WikiHouse which is an open-source construction kit, consisting of a collection of 3D models which can be used to print the desired construction parts through Computer Numerical Control machines and plywood.
9) 3D Rocket Engine Injector
Of course NASA wouldn’t only use 3D technology for food. They pushed the boundaries when their rocket engine injector passed a highly important hot fire test. The thrust this injector managed to release was 10 times more than previous 3D-printing attempts, which is huge progress in only a matter of years.
The injector was manufactured through a 3D printing process called SLM (Selective Laser Melting). This process collects 3D CAD data as a source of digital information and uses energy in the form of a laser beam to fabricate 3D metal components. While the rocket NASA tested was small in size, the design is the same they would employ for a large scale engine.
This means they won’t have any problems adapting it as soon as the design is ready to go into production. Speaking about NASA, they are planning to send 3D printers into space, so that their astronauts can print their own tools right there without having to carry with them. The first 3D printer will be sent into space sometime around fall, 2014.
10) Electric Light Shoe
While the Electric Light Shoe won’t win a prize for the most useful 3D object, I placed it on this list purely because of its coolness factor. Designed by Freedom of Creation for the Japanese footwear brand Onitsuka Tiger, this is a 39-inch long illuminated shoe, containing a miniature Japanese city!
From dezeen.com – Electric Light Shoe
In their own words, this shoe is a kaleidoscope of symbols and light. The shoe is truly mesmerizing. You can endlessly stare at this piece of eye-candy with all the bright colors bursting out. It is meant to reflect the Japanese urban culture and one part of the shoe even turns into a landing strip for jets!
A Final Thought
While I’ve only listed 10 examples, this could very well be a never-ending list. I am in awe of the things you can do with a 3D printer and of the creative people who always strive to improve the quality of life while cutting on costs through their design ideas.