3D printing is one of the trendiest technologies. There is no newspaper, television or digital magazine that does not talk, day after day, about aspects related to a technology that is revolutionizing multiple sectors.
Therefore, to understand the future of 3D printing it is necessary to analyze some of the advances that this technology has deployed in recent years:
- In 2016 the supply of 3D printers worldwide will exceed 5.6 million, according to Gartner.
- The first 3D printed aircraft has been designed and planned at the University of Southampton. The plane, which is unmanned, is being built in seven days on a budget of €7,000.
- A prosthetic hand has been built for a child thanks to a 3D printer. It was in Madrid and has caused the price of the prosthesis to go from 6,000 to 40 euros.
- Local Motors has presented a 3D printed car.
- In 2012, the first prosthetic implant of a 3D printed jaw was performed.
- A Chinese company has created a 3D printer that can build 10 houses in 24 hours.
- Foodini, the first 3D food printer, is a Spanish product.
- The first 3D cooking robot, Oskook, which goes a step further and allows cooking food as it is printed, is also being built in our country.
However, although it seems that 3D printing is something recent, the first 3D printing method was created by Charles Hull in 1983. It is stereolithography, an additive manufacturing process using resin and ultraviolet light.
What is 3D printing
3D printing is a group of additive manufacturing technologies in which a three-dimensional object is created by superimposing successive layers of material. For this reason, it is also known as additive manufacturing or additive manufacturing.
The interesting thing is that 3D printing does not require molds or tooling of any kind to superimpose the layers of the material being used.
To print in 3D it is therefore necessary to have:
- A 3d printer.
- CAD software (Computer-aided design or computer-aided design).
A 3D printer in every home?
Those who are already adopting 3D printers have experienced the time and cost savings in product creation. So, as the speed of the printer increases and the range of materials expands, an increasing number of products will be born. And new markets will be affected by 3D printing.
So one of the most interesting debates going on is whether in the medium term there will be a 3D printer in every home.
On the one hand, there are those who claim that homes will have a 3D printer. The reduction in costs combined with a revolution in materials would mean that it would be possible to install a 3D printer in every home. Something similar to what happens today with inkjet printers.
However, there is another current that suggests that the revolution will be so extensive and will affect so many sectors that it will be very difficult to have the right printers for everyone. Or the materials needed for such printing.
Instead, spaces would emerge where the printed results could be acquired without the need for the machinery, materials, design and knowledge necessary for 3D printing.
Where 3D printing is heading
3D printing is at the heart of the fourth industrial revolution. That is why the main forecasts point to the trend that the 3D printing market will triple and reach 21 billion dollars by 2020.
These figures are supported by the facts. Materials and services associated with 3D printers grew by almost 20% in 2015 in the USA compared to the previous year. A market that currently stands at 2.5 billion dollars.
However, we can’t even guess at the advances that will be made thanks to 3D printing and the fourth industrial revolution. Some trends point to a future in which ideas such as the following will be normal:
There is going to be a revolution in food. It is no longer just that NASA wants astronauts to print their food in space. In addition, we will be able to have personalized menus that guarantee the right amount of nutrients for each person.
In terms of health, we will see unimaginable advances. Various prostheses have already been printed with great success. In addition, Princeton University has succeeded in creating a 3D printed ear that allows us to hear frequencies that go beyond those that our ears can currently hear. This is not to mention the possibilities of facial reconstruction on which they are already working.
Advances in biomedicine made possible by 3D printers, together with other technologies, are breaking many medical schemes of the past by providing solutions to previously unsolvable challenges. For example, the possibility of being scanned three-dimensionally to be used as a medical record is being considered.
We will be able to live in houses created with 3D printers. In fact, the European Space Agency itself wants to build a lunar station using 3D printing without having to transfer materials from Earth.
It will be possible to replicate products from any productive sector. From 3D printed suits to replicas of cars or parts from any industry. In this way, it will not be necessary to have a stock, something that changes the entire industry as we have known it.
Impressive advances in robotics. For example, MIT is currently working on a technique to create robots that can self-replicate and self-repair. To this end, they have developed the first 3D printing technique for robotics that allows the printing of solid and liquid materials at the same time, the first step towards achieving this.