It’s finally 2015 and just like "Back To The Future" predicted, we have hover boards, self-lacing shoes, and even flying cars! Along with that, 2015 has marked many innovations and improvements to technology, such as needle-free vaccines, self-balancing two-wheel cars, a frying pan that teaches you how to cook, and now: the 3D printer.
3D printers have been around for awhile, with the earliest versions being made as early as the 1980s. However, in the last few years, the technology has skyrocketed, leaving imagination to be the only barrier between us and what we can make.
"What’s being printed?"
Well, I’m glad you asked! Currently, there are many different types of 3D printers that print different types of things (which we will go over soon). The most common desktop 3D printers use a plastic filament to print the designs, but there are also printers that can actually print with bronze, gold, cells, etc. The technology is uncannily amazing!
Here are a few amazing things being 3D printed right now:
Prosthetic hands are becoming a big topic in 3D printing. Having one of them means less weight, softer material, lower costs, and easier replacement for the patient. Limbitless, E-Nable, and Open Hand Project are just a few of the organizations that have formed to develop these prosthetic hands and make them available to people in need of them. Many universities have also joined in this great cause, such as Liberty University, Washington State University, and more.
Researchers at Washington State University have actually created bone-like materials for 3D printers to utilize. The goal of this technology is to implant a bone scaffold that would promote bone growth before dissolving on its own. Other researchers are even using this technology to understand how cancer cells metastasize in the bone.
Yep, you can actually 3D print your favorite instruments! Thingiverse.com is a great place to download free designs for any instrument, including guitars, violins, pianos, drums, basses, ukuleles, and saxophones. Monad Studios, among other companies, actually makes music with 3D printed instruments.
Before Dr. Helen Cho used this technology in "The Avengers: Age of Ultron," real life scientists had been developing this technology for similar purposes. Bioprinting, a type of tissue engineering, has been the center of many research projects lately. Organovo and BioBots are currently the leading companies in bioprinting, with plans of even making a desktop bioprinter. Similarly, researchers at the Wake Forest School of Medicine have developed a 3D printer that can print skin right onto the wounds of burn victims. The US Army is planning to use this technology to treat wounded soldiers and they are almost ready for clinical trials. It’s all pretty cool, right?
This is a free site that is basically 3D printing Twitter. Thingiverse has thousands of designs for people to download, edit, and print. Thingiverse offers all kinds of designs: cosplay items, tech gear, accessories, 3D artwork, iPhone cases, figurines, armor - you name it! Also, 3D Hubs is a great place to find 3D printers near you that you can use.