Expansion of 3D Printing Materials Leads to Wider Use

Posted by Isaac jacobs, on Sep, 2015

Contrary to popular belief, 3D printing materials are not just limited to plastic. As printing materials become more diverse and printers become more sophisticated, a broader range of creative possibilities become reality. Despite the growing popularity of 3D printing, many don’t yet know what it’s used for or how it can be beneficial. The variety of uses cases for 3D printing is constantly evolving, but even today 3D printers have valid commercial and personal applications.

Providing Life-Saving Innovations in the Medical Industry
Recently, there have been an increasing number of news stories regarding 3D printing in medicine.  Perhaps most eye catching are those that cite 3D printing as a key factor in saving people’s lives.  The 3D models of organs also help scientists and physicians discover more efficient ways to solve medical problems, by increasing the visibility of an issue that may only be accessible via medical scans.  Often in these cases surgeons are able to create a 3D model of the area undergoing surgery, such that they can better visualize and understand the exact nature of the operation they’ll be performing.  The resulting increase in speed and particularly accuracy has been significant.

Looking towards the future, the expanding variety of printable materials (and associated techniques) is actually enabling the medical industry to use live human tissue to create organs that can be used for actual transplant.  This is an area with nearly limitless potential, and one that will undoubtedly evolve in the coming years.

Automotive Industry Loves 3D Printing
Similar to the medical industry, the automotive industry has also benefitted from 3D printing. The expanding variety of 3D printing materials has made it possible to design more realistic car models and prototypes. These prototype cars have been helpful for engineers in creating designs that are, for example, more ergonomic. The ability to generate a design, prototype & test that design, then iterate on the next version of that design (and repeat the process) in a rapid manner makes for quick evolutions and more refining during an increased number of development cycles.
Model cars are also available for purchase, and can be of interest to car fanatics who want a custom printed version of their favorite car.  One such example of this is Ford’s 3D printed model car shop – where customers can purchase printed cars or digital files to print themselves.

3D Printing is Appropriate for Personal Use
While advances in the medical and automotive industries are exciting, many wonder how 3D printing can benefit individual home users. In fact there are many applications for individuals who want to incorporate 3D printing into their personal lives.

Artists for example, have been using 3D printing to create beautiful contemporary art. Illustrators have used printers to bring their 2D cartoon-like figures to life in 3D. The concept of taking a drawing and creating a 3D figure is easier than ever before with 3D printing, and related advances in user friendly software. Advanced users can also create toys and miniature figures for their children and families to enjoy.
On the more practical side, many have used 3D printers to create printed items with utility and purposes beyond entertainment.  Some examples include cell phone cases and customized stands to hold electronics. Designed properly, these items can fit the specific needs of the user in terms of durability, style, and similar.

Cutting edge 3D printing materials that currently include metals, ceramics, food, and even live tissue create limitless opportunities for design exploration & development of new products.  As 3D printers continue to evolve, so too does the near inevitability of developing cutting edge products as a result – perhaps even those beyond today’s imagination. In the interim, even for individuals, there’s significant practicality in owning a 3D printer for creative entertainment, real function & application, and learning opportunities.

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