While 3D printing seems well suited in the plot of a futuristic sci-fi novel, it is well within our grasp. Using a variety of materials that includes wood, metal, plastics and fabrics, we are now able to print various three-dimensional objects, ranging from food, spare parts, weapons, homes, organs, medical devices, clothing and more.
Yet what effect will these present capabilities have on our future? We uncover five important ways 3D printing will change the world.
3D printing can end world hunger
We’ve all been there: making food sounds like too much of a hassle, yet buying it seems equally oppressive. While this age-old issue has plagued us for decades, three-dimensional printing now offers a viable alternative. Say you’re craving a deep dish pizza. Instead of calling the delivery guy, you just choose your pizza and toppings and print the deep dish pie from the comfort of your home—Seriously, NASA recently granted Systems & Materials Research Corporation $125,000 to develop a pizza printer.
Food companies and manufacturers are already toying with designs and recipes that use 3D printers to create delectable treats.
While food printing capabilities might reduce the need for a midnight snack run, in the bigger picture, 3D printing could also eradicate—or greatly reduce—world hunger. According to researchers, using nutritionally complete cartridges of powder and oils that can be stored for decades, developing countries will be able to print nutrition-dense foods that aren’t dependent on circumstances such as weather, crop availability and location.
While these developments are still a few years out and must take into account cost, how to install them in households and train its users, 3D printing has the potential to aid in solving one of the world’s biggest social problems. Check out this video of one 3D printer prototype, the Foodini, printing everyday foods:
3D printing will empower medical innovations
One of the most incredible benefits of new 3D printing technologies is the ability to improve medical care for a variety of illnesses, diseases and injuries. Bioprinting allows doctors and medical providers to print replicas of human organs—such as this printed liver—and customized bioresorbable devices like lung splints.
Scientists have also been working on a printer that can print skin grafts over burns and other injuries using “ink” that’s made from different skin cells. Unlike traditional burn remedies, this innovative skin printer requires a patch of skin that’s only one-tenth of the size of the burn. While many of these innovations are still relatively new, 3D printing technology will likely transform the medical landscape. Check out this video on the 3D skin printer: