As we look ahead to the new decade we’ve just entered, it’s hard to come up with too many technologies more intriguing than 3D printing. There are certainly others we’re excited about, such as improving self-driving cars, virtual reality, 5G, and the like. But few things have the potential to impact more industries in more interesting ways than 3D printing.
With that in mind, here are five specific uses of the technology that appear to have massive implications moving forward.
1. Fashion Design
We typically think of 3D printing with regard to hard materials and smaller objects. However, with printers now able to handle a greater variety of materials, the fashion industry is proving to be an interesting partner for the technology. Fashion United addressed this topic and pointed to numerous high-end companies exploring 3D printing, from Adidas to Iris van Herpen. And more broadly, there have already been examples of 3D-printed pieces in film costumes, on red carpet dresses, in footwear, and in accessories. Moreover, it’s likely that this is just the beginning, and that the limitless design potential and increasing affordability of 3D printing will continue to revolutionize the fashion industry.
2. Coral Reef Reconstruction
Our oceans are suffering from climate change, to the point that there may be some irreversible changes in ecosystems. As you may have seen, a previous article here at NewsLair even pointed out that the oceans are expected to change color by the end of the current century. But there are some ways we can fight back against some of the changes happening, and 3D printing is fueling one of the most interesting ideas. Essentially, 3D printing is being used to create artificial coral, which can be used to help build up ocean reefs that have been devastated by various changes to the environment. This can have numerous benefits, including revitalizing marine habitats and controlling erosion.
3. Prototype Creation
This is a broad point to make, but one way in which commercial 3D printing services have improved significantly is in their capacity to build product prototypes for businesses. Fictiv’s guide to 3D printing services asserts that early-stage designs in a variety of materials can be completed in a day’s time and shipped back to a customer for evaluation. It also cites successful business owners stating that this kind of quick turnaround can be critical in evaluating early design decisions. Now, consider these ideas as they relate to today’s massive, expanding startup culture. Anyone starting a business that involves physical products now has the option to have a prototype printed to exact specifications over a 24-hour period. Over the years, this will likely be responsible for innumerable startups moving forward with products that they may otherwise never have gotten around to building.
4. Space Exploration
Space exploration is likely to be one of the biggest stories in science and technology over the course of the decade. In fact, as we inch closer to sending manned missions to Mars, we may see more interest in space exploration than there’s been since the space race that led to the first men on the moon. And 3D printing is going to play a role, possibly in anything from improving spacesuits to providing components for colonies. In fact, Architecture & Design posted recently about a 3D-printed concept design for a Mars habitat that won a NASA competition. Seeing something like that actually put to use within 10 years is unlikely, but this still speaks to the potential of 3D printing in this field.
This is a category we’re beginning to hear more about, and it’s becoming apparent that various 3D-printed products can have all sorts of positive impacts on education at all levels. TeachThought’s look at ways 3D printing can be used in education pointed to a range of subjects from chemistry to history: chemistry students can study precisely printed molecular models, history students can observe imitation artifacts, and so on. A majority of popular subjects can benefit from one product or another, and we imagine that in time 3D-printed materials will become commonplace in education.