3D printing technology has recently proved to be a great asset over the past year when COVID-19 saw a massive depletion of basic resources such as personal protective equipment (PPE) for the medical staff. This particular technology supplies staff with the much-needed protective gear while also creating parts that would help fix the ventilators in hospitals. Because of the various advantages of 3D printing, millions of PPE and ventilator parts were shipped to hospitals all over to help them fight this deadly disease. Impressive isn’t it? Well, that’s only the beginning of 3D printing’s capabilities.

How 3D Printing Works?

In simple terms, 3D printers use computer-aided design (CAD) to create 3D objects from a plethora of materials, such as powders or molten plastic. They use similar methods to a traditional inkjet printer. The only difference is that they create in 3D. They use highly sophisticated software, powder-like materials. Also, precision tools to create a three-dimensional object from the ground up.

The entire process consists few main steps that follow:

Modeling

When creating anything, you first start with a rough idea or model of what you’re trying to achieve at the end of the day. In this particular case, all object designing is in 3D modeling software to ensure maximum precision. Modeling allows printers to customize products to the finest of details. Something that has been of immense help to the dentistry profession that uses three-dimensional software to design teeth aligners created precisely to fit individual needs.

Slicing

Once a model is there, the next step is to “slice” it. Since 3D printers can’t really conceptualize the concept of three dimensions all on their own. The engineers need to slice the model into layers to enable the printer to create the final product. This software individually scans all layers of a model and then passes that information onto the printer so it knows how to move to recreate those very layers.
 
They also help tell 3D printers were to “fill” a model i.e. provide the model with lattices and columns that will give it the structural strength and shape.

Printing

Once the slicing process has ended, the 3D printer takes over. This is a simple process that is similar to inkjet printers. But this time around it keeps on adding levels. In other words, think of this as hundreds or thousands of 2D prints happening at the same time, creating layers on top of each other to achieve the three-dimensional object. These printers use a variety of materials such as ABS plastic, Carbon fiber, or conductive/flexible filaments to print electric circuits in particular.
 
The time that a printer takes to print an object depends on the kind of object and the intricacies with regards to the structure so prepare to wait for up to a couple of weeks if it’s a big structure such as a full-sized house.
 
At the moment you can get a small 3D printer for about $200 (it won’t print a house for you, but will definitely do some lower-level stuff). If you’re looking for an industrial 3D printer then you could see the price tag reach the $100,000 mark easily.

Advantages Of 3D printing

Sure this seems like a great piece of technology but what really are the major benefits of 3D printing technology in different fields?

3D Printing In Construction Industry

One of the biggest breakthroughs has been the creation of 3D printed houses. An initiative that many cities and non-profits got behind in hopes of curbing the homeless crisis. A particular example is New Story that is currently in the process of using a 33-foot long printer to print out 500 square feet homes with walls, two bedrooms, and windows in just under 24 hours. They’ve created homes in areas of Mexico and Bolivia amongst others. With the number rising over 2,000.

3D Printing In Food Industry

3D printers have also made their way to the food industry by creating near-perfect foods. The catch however is that the food needs to be something that we can purify for safe consumption. If it gets purify, then it’s safe for consumption.

3D Printing In Aerospace Industry

The aerospace industry is in the process of utilizing 3D printing to create an entire fully functional rocket – yes a rocket. While this is a work-in-process, we expect that a model will be releasing soon. The process is thereby using alloy metal that will maximize the payload capacity while minimizing the assembly time.

3D Printing In Healthcare

Along with the homeless crisis, this technology also holds the potential to help the healthcare crisis by helping to create working organs for transplants. At the moment, doctors and engineers are working together to develop technology that can create organs. Such as the heart, kidney, or life from scratch. In this, these organs are 3D modeled using the exact specifications of the patient and then a combination of living cells and polymer gel prints to create a living human organ. If this proves to be successful, then this will be a landmark in the history of healthcare. Also, it will bring about a change like never before in the medical industry.

3D Printing Prosthetics

Another area where 3D printing has slowly begun to make an impact is prosthetics. These printers can provide a similar look and feel as regular prosthetics at almost half the price. These may not be high-quality prosthetics but can serve as replacements in multiple cases. Especially for children that might grow out of their prosthetics or are more prone to breaking them.

Future Of 3D Printing

3D printing has only just begun to showcase its capabilities to the world, and if early results are anything to go by, this technology has the potential to change the world. Just over the past couple of years, technology has shown us what it can do and the improvements it can bring to our lives.
 
These printers are highly flexible not only in terms of the products they can create. Also, the materials they need to create those very predicts. All this coupled with their accuracy and super-fast speed, make them a breakthrough tool for the future of manufacturing.
 
Now various companies are using 3D Printers to quickly create prototypes and test them immediately without having to wait months for the creation process only to be disappointed by failures. Not only does this save disappointment but also cuts down heavily on costs and is a much faster process overall.
 
Moreover, we saw above how 3D printers are being used in a wide array of industries – this is not a tool for a particular industry or type of product; it’s a tool for everyone and anyone. Whether it’s the healthcare industry or the creation of automated vehicles or homes or just a small device – 3D printing has got them all covered.
 
There’s obviously a lot more that needs work to enable this technology to become an accessible tool but we’re certainly on the right path.