In 1984 3D printing was born, and after some incredible advances in 3D printing technology over the past twenty years, we’re now at a point where we’re beginning to see some impressive results.
I have put together a list of some of the craziest, most impressive and potentially world-changing 3D printed objects that have so far been created by this mind-blowing technology – which is still only in its infancy.
1. Artificial blood vessels
Back in 2011 a research team at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany successfully overcome problems in tissue engineering when they printed working blood vessels.
There had been a number of research teams that tried to overcome the problems involved in providing artificial tissue with nutrients that need to arrive via capillary vessels, but these results from the German team are the most promising.
If creating working blood vessels wasn’t impressive enough, the technology could soon be used to help those patients on organ donation lists, and allow us to print fully working organs for transplant.
2. A gun
While an entire 3D printed gun hasn’t yet been made, technological advances have meant that certain parts of guns can be. Lower receivers, the parts of a gun that include the workings of the trigger and the magazine, have already been successfully printed and fitted by some 3D printing/gun enthusiasts – and it’s been causing quite a bit of controversy.
Should the technology improve to a point where additional gun parts can be manufactured (and the odds of that happening are pretty strong) then 3D printers could effectively kill a country’s gun control legislation, with individuals effectively able to create their own weapons at home – or at least, part of them.
3. A prosthetic jaw
In 2012 Belgium scientists created a 3D-printed jawbone for an 83-year-old woman after her jaw became badly infected. The standard 20-hour surgery required to reconstruct the jaw was deemed too dangerous considering the patients age, so something else had to be thought up…
While prosthetic jaws have been created before, the operation was the first ever to involve a 3D printed prosthetic. The prosthetic jaw was printed in layers from titanium powder before being covered in a ‘bioceramic’ coating.
4. Other 3D printers…
In 2007 RepRap Project (short for replicating rapid prototyper) – a company whose goal is to develop the world’s first self-replicating 3D printer – released Darwin, a 3D printer capable of printing almost all of its component parts.
RepRap Project hopes one day to be able to supply their 3D printers cheaply to people around the world, and to communities in need of materials normally associated with expensive industrial processes that they have no access to.
Exciting news for global development – these self-replicating 3D printer could well bring about a new industrial revolution in the 21st century.
This is an article by Rob Henry who is one of the directors at Ink Worldwide, which provides products like Epson, HP, Canon and Brother Ink and Toner throughout the UK. Rob has been with Ink Worldwide from the beginning and has played a major role in helping run and grow the company.