Did you know NASA has plans to use 3D printing technology to feed astronauts in space? The goal is to eventually provide astronauts with nutrient-packed meals that are sustainable for deep space exploration. One food that recently has been tested was a printed cheese pizza with layers of toppings. Imagine the options that will be available to astronauts once this technology is perfected?
This is just one of the countless capabilities of 3D printers, which surprisingly have been around since the 1980s. From medical innovations like custom-made prosthetics to small-batch manufacturing, the possibilities of 3D printing technology are endless.
What is 3D Printing?
3D printing is exactly what it sounds like, the process of printing 3D solid objects from a digital file. It’s accomplished through additive processes, or when thin slices are layered on top of one another, eventually creating the completed object.
The concept of 3D printing may seem pretty straight forward, however, there is rich history that surrounds this technological breakthrough
The same year Steve Jobs announced the Apple Macintosh computer at a shareholders meeting, American engineer Chuck Hall also had an invention up his sleeve – 3D printing. Working for a tabletop and furniture manufacturer, Chuck believed there was a faster, easier way to manufacturer small, custom parts. He then transformed the company’s UV lamp into the first 3D printer, using photosensitive resin to create stacked layers that formed into a custom part. He later named this process stereolithography.
The Benefits of 3D Printing
3D printing offers many benefits, but one benefit that has been a game-changer is the freedom for designers to customize objects to fit specific needs. For example, when a patient goes in for dental implant surgery, the implant can be customized via a 3D printer, providing a better fit and greater comfort.
3D printing is also cost-effective, producing items that are well made, but for a lower cost. One reason for this is due to a decrease in labor costs. Unlike many traditional manufacturing plants, where multiple employees manage multiple machines, 3D printing only requires one person to setup and start the printer.
One procedure that 3D printing has tremendously impacted is organ transplant surgery. Imagine your child needs a new kidney, but there are more than 90,000 others waiting for a kidney donation, with the average wait time between 3-5 years. Not only does 3D bioprinting help alleviate the wait time, but this technology will help reduce medical costs and enhance patient care.
Other benefits include faster production, unlimited shapes, and overall better quality of the objects produced.
Promotional Products and 3D Printing
The promotional products industry is worth $24.7 billion, with millions of products available for advertising purposes. For suppliers, 3D printing is a revolutionary method of printing hundreds of products at an affordable cost. Say goodbye to the generic pens, koozies, and tees, now manufacturers can design unique, obscure products that have never been seen at tradeshows before.
Plus, 3D printing encourages made-in-America products. Because so much of the merchandise we own is made overseas, the ability to print promotional products at affordable rates can impact where our products are coming from. U.S. companies involved in the industry now have the power to print products in their own warehouses without having to outsource from another country.
Shaping the World… Literally
We’ve come a long way since 1984 when Chuck Hall first introduced 3D printing technology to society. Today, 3D printing has greatly impacted many industries by introducing affordable, customizable printing technology. This is only the beginning; 3D printing capabilities will only continue to grow and transform our work and the way we live drastically. Stay tuned.