How will 3d printing effect our lives in the future? Whilst 3D printing will change so many parts of our lives, the most phenomenal way that 3D printing will affect lives in the future is within the medical field. Whilst medically 3D printing is still in its theoretical testing stage and not widely accessible to the public there are a few ways where it is beginning to be more commonly used. One way that 3D printing is starting to change how we deal with prosthetic limbs. There are thousands of people all around the world who use prosthetics. Unfortunately due to the cost, which can range up to $30,000 many people are unable to afford what they require or have to settle for uncomfortable and unsatisfactory prosthetics. 3D printing has the ability to change this with the technology allowing prosthetic hands to be created for as small a sum as $150 and limbs being similar low costs. http://www.forbes.com/sites/tjmccue/2014/08/31/3d-printed-prosthetics/ Dentists are also using this technology currently, using a 3D scanner and onsite 3D printer to create crown in their surgeries.
What used to be a costly and timely process can now take as little as an hour. Sirona created this system; the company is one of the first to use CAD and CAM in this field. They created the system called cerec, which they sell this system to dentists for around $100,000. The systems aren’t widely available yet with only 1 in 10 dentists using them but as they become the standard for dentistry they will become more common. Surgeons also use the technology to create prototypes of patient’s organs to practice complex surgeries on, for example brain and heart surgery. For example take a look at this story on Gabriel Mandeville a 5 month old who thanks to 3D printing is now 19 months old and growing. http://www.inside3dp.com/medical-3d-printing-boston-child-saved-simulation-surgery/. I don’t know about you but if I needed a risky surgery I would like to know that my surgeons have had plenty of practice before operating on me, no one likes to be the test subject when it is with their body.
Why was 3D printing a technology that was pursued? When 3D printing technology first emerged it was to create prototypes for parts for planes and cars. By using 3D printing to test how effective these parts were and whether the size, shape and material were correct it saved time and money. Allowing the parts to be tested and corrected before plans progressed to factories to be created on a mass scale. 3D printing technology will give us greater ability to repair appliances when parts have become faulty. In the past if an older model appliance had a part that become faulty it was difficult and potentially expensive to obtain a part that was no longer in production. This would lead to the object being thrown out and replaced. In the future we could instead go online look up the part and either print out the part at home or get it printed somewhere else through a third party website such as http://www.sculpteo.com, http://www.i.materialise.com or http://www.shapeways.com.
Using this technology would eradicate the need for factories to stockpile items for future placement within in stores as stores could print items as needed. It also removes the need for transporting the items from factory to store. This reduces the waste associated with mass production, and reduces the environmental footprint that is left by factories and transport. (Economist 2011)
Where did the idea of 3D printing come from? Well one of the technologies that we often take for granted now but in reality has only become an at home affordable thing in the last 10 -15 years is the 2D printer. How often do we print a photo or document and think about what an amazing thing that is? If you are like me that is never, but years ago printing photos yourself at home would have been impressive to people. The main initiative behind the original idea of printing was to permanently record something, whether that was written or visual. It was then pushed so that people could recreate existing materials to allow people to have their own copies of things in their possession; for example books, photographs and artwork. Printing has progressed from such a basic form of using stones to transfer simple images or art for historical preservation to something we now use everyday within our lives without thinking. (Gascoigne, B 2011) If you had told people hundreds of years ago what technology would be like today they wouldn’t believe you. 3D printing will become the same in the future; it will be an accepted part of day-to-day life without giving it much thought.