5 Amazing Uses for 3D Printing

3D Printing technology has developed extremely rapidly in the last few years – so much so that it isn’t even mentioned in the current ITGS syllabus, written around 2010. However, ITGS students need to stay up to date with all the latest developments in information technology, so here are five of the most interesting uses of 3D printing. Know of any more? Feel free to leave a comment.

Houses

University of Southern California Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis believes it will soon be possible to use dramatically upscaled 3D printer technology to “print” a house using concrete in less than 24 hours. If it happens, the development could have significance advantages in areas where low cost housing is needed, or in emergency situations where shelters must be constructed shelter.Using 3D CAD files that could be individually customised, the 3D house printer would build up layers on concrete, leaving conduits for electrical and water connections and able to construct multiple storeys.

Body Parts

When he was six weeks old Kaiba Gionfriddo was diagnosed with a condition that caused his windpipe to collapse and his breathing and heart to stop on a regular basis. Using a brand new technique and a 3D printer with a biodegradable polyster printing material, doctors were able to 3D print a special tracheal splint for Kaiba. Computer Aided Design software was used to design a splint that exactly fitted the shape and size Kaiba’s windpipe. They implanted this in his throat, and three weeks later he was able to breathe on his own again. Elsewhere, 3D printing technology has been used to print low-cost prosthetics, including silicone noses.

3D printing of body parts
The implant that saved Kaiba’s life (Source)

Spare Parts for the Military

3D printed machine parts
Sgt Wes Calder RLC / Flickr (CC-BY-NC)

US Marines in isolated bases across Afghanistan may have to wait days or even weeks for resupply helicopters to bring them the equipment and spare parts they need. Now the US Army Rapid Equipping Force (REF) is developing a series of mobile laboratories that can be transported by helicopter to even the most remote regions.

Each lab, which cost $2.8 million, contains the tools and equipment necessary for outposts to be more self-sufficient – including 3D printers that can plastic or metal objects. Troops have already used the 3D printers to produce spare parts for damaged robots and develop new tools to help them deal with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

3D Fetus Models

Standard baby photographs taken from ultrasound scans could soon be old school: Californian company 3D Babies combines 4D scanning technology with 3D printing to produce models of babies while they are still in the womb.

3D printed fetus
Source: YouTube / Gerard Bessette

Two versions of the model are available, depending on whether or not the parents-to-be wish to know the sex of their baby.The models, however, are not cheap: a full scale (8 inch) model costs $600, while the smallest 2 inch model still costs $200.

In the Future: Moon Bases?

One of the key difficulties of developing colonies on the moon or further afield is the cost and difficulty of transporting building materials, tools, and equipment such large distances. Even one additional kilo of weight significantly increases mission cost and complexity.

3D printed buildings
Source: NASA

However, in the future NASA believe it may be possible to use moon rocks as a source material. Melted using a laser and combined with 3D printing technology, the moon rocks could be used to produce a large range of small items that would be useful for any colony. Such technology would be particularly helpful given that resupply missions can be weeks or even months away.

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