In 1983, Chuck Hull invented the first ever 3D printer. With untapped potential over 30 years later the 3D printer is being enhanced and improved with modern technology, opening up a whole new realm of opportunity in almost every aspect of life. Although 3D Printers haven’t been perfected, they have advanced in huge ways and are already producing some amazing, insane and just plain cool things. In 2001’s Jurassic Park III Billy Brennan shows Dr. Alan Grant that he reproduced a Velociraptor larynx with a 3D printer and our minds were blown. Maybe we aren’t close to having a park full of dinosaurs, but the 3D reproduction of many things is definitely a reality.
Clearly, this one is cool but definitely controversial. There have been several, functioning guns made by 3D printing which causes an even bigger headache for governments who are already having a hard time with gun control and laws. While 3D printers have many amazing uses, this one is causes more trouble than anything as anyone with the technology can download and print their own firearm out of plastic.
8. 3D Printers
What’s better than having one 3D printer? Two 3D printers of course! If and when 3D printers become a widely used product this one is going to have to be monitored greatly or those whose business it is to provide 3D printers will soon be out of a job. Obviously there are kinks to work out here but this also opens up the possibility that no-one should have to go without.
7. Animal Prosthetics
We’ll get to what 3D printers have done for humans later, but they’re already being used for animals, and no, not for Velociraptors, but have helped some other injured animals. In 2005 a Bald Eagle was shot by a poacher leaving her without the top half of most of her beak and although she could breathe, the damage was extensive and she was unable to eat or survive on her own. Specialists including engineers made her a new beak and while she can no longer be in the wild, she is perfectly capable of eating on her own. Similarly, a student at Colorado Technical University designed a 3D prosthetic shell for a tortoise suffering from pyramiding. The condition due to poor nutrition made her shell brittle and full of holes that could get infected but her new shell made of biodegradable plastic will protect her until she is healed.
According to several shows and movies from the past, by now we should be well on our way to flying cars and while that is also in the works, there have been several cars manufactured out of 3D printed parts, all of which have futuristic designs. The three wheeled Urbee 2 is the first car made out of the parts and the inventors have plans to drive the car across the U.S. on only 10 gallons of fuel but as of right now the car is not in conjunction with the U.S. highway code. In 2014, Local Motors presented their own 3D printed car dubbed the Strati at the IMTS show in Chicago. The Strati was manufactured before an audience and the process of printing all 212 layers took about two days.
3D printers are already being used to construct full houses, not just model ones. A company in China has already built ten one-level houses out of 3D printed materials, all of which were built in less than 24 hours. Obviously, they aren’t intricately designed but the rudimentary attempts have been very promising with one architect even building a castle type structure with a 3D printer. The best part about these houses is that they only cost around $5000.
4. Sports Equipment
With a 3D printer you can now have a car and a house, so what about new sporting equipment whenever you need it? Stratasys have created 3D printed skis that are partially hollow in order to distribute weight better which makes for a better run down the mountain. Nike also creates its Vapour Laser Talon cleats using 3D printing and New Balance has created its own 3D printed track shoes.
With the hopes that 3D printers can better the world by providing for those who are homeless, injured, starving etc. the technology can also create clothing which a part from providing further necessities also means huge changes for everyday fashion. People will be able to create clothes specifically tailored for their body as proven by model Dita Von Teese who wore the first 3D printed gown in 2013, which moved and fell specifically for her curves.
2. Food/ Drink
We may not be “boldly going” anywhere on the Enterprise but the 3D printer brings some Star Trek aspects to life such as when Captain Picard demands Early Grey tea from the computer and it appears. 3D printers can now make certain foods, something that has been well funded by NASA in order to feed astronauts in space. The technology is also being used in nursing homes because the food created is much softer making it easier for older people to chew and swallow without difficulty. Of course printed (safe) food blasts a huge hole in the World Hunger crisis if used effectively.
1. Body Parts
The key word in this list has been advancements, and arguably the most important is the advancements made in the medical world thanks to 3D printing. Ears, kidneys, livers, blood vessels, skin and bones have all been created by scientists around the world using special 3D bioprinters that instead of using plastic, create using a gel made from cells and uses a ceramic powder for bones. While kidneys and livers are not yet functional, the first ever 3D skull transplant has already happened in the Netherlands meaning doctors are closer than ever to having the ability to perfectly match patients with bone fragments, skin grafts and even organ transplants.