While we have still yet to see the cartoon ideas of future technology like flying cars, teleportation and time travel, one absolutely incredible innovation that is perpetually being improved and finding uses in more and more industries is 3D printing.
Also called additive manufacturing, this Jetsons-like development can produce infinite objects, with all sorts of materials, and only one machine. It is called printing because the physical form produced is just a collection of tiny layers. The 3D printing process turns a whole object into thousands of tiny little slices, then makes it from the bottom-up, slice by slice. Those successive layers, which can be astonishingly complex, stick together in order to form a solid object.
In industrial applications, 3D printing enables remarkable prototyping and research – which can save companies time and thousands of dollars, highly customizable products, and mass production capabilities. Some of the entities that 3D printing has produced are clothing, shoes, jewelry, eye wear, ornamental objects, toys, tools with moving parts, working clocks with gears, construction equipment, and even food, to name just a few.
3D printing is useful for manufacturing car parts on very old models that are no longer available. It also assists in space research with the printing of rocket engine parts, and space travel, because of the printer’s ability to print even in low gravity, so it cuts back on the storage space needed in rockets.
In addition, 3D printing is accelerating staggering effects in biomedical research. It has been used to create prosthetic limbs for animals and humans, replicate heart, lung and liver tissue, and parts of bones and teeth, and tremendous progress is being made on creating fully functional blood vessels and organs.
3D printing is a multi-billion dollar industry, and new technologies are being generated constantly within the field. Processes are being improved dramatically, as machines that cost upwards of twenty thousand dollars in 2010 now can cost less than one thousand. 3D printing has been compared to the printing press and the steam engine, in terms of how much impact it is predicted to have. 3D printing certainly is revolutionary, and is definitely something to watch.
Below is a link to a video posted by TIME Magazine that helps to give a visual demonstration of the magic of 3D Printing:
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