The Future of 3D Printing Technology
October 19th, 2023
3D printing technology has come a long way since Hideo Kodama first developed it in Japan in the 1980s. Back then, Kodama was figuring out a way to establish a fast prototyping system and created a layer-by-layer approach for manufacturing using a photosensitive resin and UV light. 3D printing technology has gotten a lot bigger and is predicted to grow at even greater heights in the foreseeable future. According to Lux Research, the global 3D printing market is projected to quadruple over the next decade and will exceed $50 billion. The pandemic also brought a massive demand for this modern printing tech. The shortage of Personal Protective Equipment and other medical equipment parts pushed for the accessibility of alternatives that can be 3D-printed. The technology also allowed for a more efficient supply chain. Before the pandemic, 3D printing technology was more commonly used for producing prototypes in industrial domains like architecture and car manufacturing. However, more industries are now seeing the potential of 3D printing in their respective fields.
Industries Seeing the Light of 3D Printing
HealthcareAs mentioned earlier, 3D printing has worked to mitigate the supply chain and scarcity issue of medical supplies during the height of the pandemic. 3D printing well-fitting face masks and other protective gear mitigated unforeseen shortages in PPEs. Shortage in ventilator support was also reduced with the help of 3D-printed splitters that allowed multiple patients to use a single ventilator machine. Aside from pandemic-related uses, 3D printing has allowed the medical field to achieve significant strides. Another major contribution of the technology to the field is Organ Bioprinting. As the world faces a shortage of organs for needy patients, scientists and medical practitioners are looking into organ bioprinting as a possible solution to its bottleneck issue. Pharmaceuticals are also finding benefits in this modern printing tech. 3D printing is becoming an alternative to the traditional mass production of personalized medicines. The tech allows the creation of drugs tailored to a patient’s requirements and even personal preferences in shape, texture, size, or flavor. With 3D printing being used in pharmaceuticals, there can be a more efficient production and delivery of medicines.
Food TechnologyCurrently, studies are being conducted in Australia to see if food can be produced from pureed biomaterials using 3D printers to be tastier and safer for people with dysphagia or swallowing disorders. Many social activities revolve around eating, and people with dysphagia can often be left out as they can’t eat as quickly as most people. With 3D printing of food that can be safe for people with a swallowing disorder, both their nutritional needs and psychological needs fulfilled by the act of eating are met. Food 3D printing can also make food more appealing, even to those without dysphagia. But more than for aesthetics, the technology can also possibly address the issue of food shortages and world hunger.
EducationClassrooms have been transformed for a more interactive learning experience thanks to 3D printing. The tech has allowed instructors to design enriching learning experiences for bringing even deep theoretical constructs from computer screens to students’ hands. Teaching STEM, architecture, design, and even other fields has become more exciting for teachers and students. A hands-on learning environment created by 3D printing technology has allowed students to grasp even theoretical concepts more quickly. It will enable them to be more creative and innovative, and they are now given access to more information. 3D printing has also enabled a better real-world understanding for students - getting them equipment or models that were previously difficult to access now allows them to understand better tools and practices they’ll be using outside the classroom and in the real world.
ConstructionConstruction and interior design have become more efficient thanks to 3D printing. The printing of miniature parts and furniture allowed labor time and cost to be cut down and increased efficiency when actual construction was happening. Waste reduction is also something 3D printing is trying to address. Global construction waste adds up to more than a billion tons annually, and according to Construction Dive, it can even double by 2025. Since 3D printing is an additive manufacturing process that allows for less waste, it can reduce construction waste by a certain amount, even if it cannot eliminate it a hundred percent.
The Future of 3D Printing: Major Predictions
From Prototyping to Production3D printing was initially developed for rapid prototyping, but it has also shown significant benefits for actual production. For instance, printing parts for manufacturing can speed up the manufacturing process. Instead of waiting for a stock of unavailable parts, 3D printing can make them readily available and reduce production time. 3D printing can also make it possible to produce parts on demand instead of pulling out supplies from warehouses. Additive manufacturing, or adding materials to create an object, benefits every step of product development. 3D printing for fixtures, tooling, production parts, and bridge production has grown exponentially over the past few years. This trend shows no signs of slowing down and will increase in the next few years.
Offer More Personalized DesignConsumers can soon be offered more choices than just mass-produced items, which are all but unique. Items custom-printed to fit a special design they want can soon reach their hands quickly. Additive manufacturing can allow for low-volume production for some customers’ distinct tastes - allowing these products or choices to be available in the market without having much waste and massive cost to the manufacturer. This can also shorten the time spent on market studies by brands and manufacturers. Instead of taking much time on tedious studies and surveys to see what consumers would best respond to, they can make more choices with fewer quantities per production batch.
Road To a More Sustainable Future3D printing can eliminate scrap materials or, at the very least, reduce them. Additive manufacturing follows the biological process of creating objects layer by layer instead of taking a huge chunk of material and carving them out bit by bit to achieve the intended shape. 3D Printing also conserves energy. In addition, 3D printing brings products closer to the consumers, thus reducing transportation requirements, thereby indirectly reducing the carbon polluting the atmosphere. The 3D printing technology is growing at a rapid pace and is expected to quadruple in value over the next decade. With more industries realizing the benefits of 3D printing, it's evident that it can reach or even exceed $50 billion in just a few years. As we face increasing concerns about wastage and the need to switch to more sustainable alternatives, 3D printing can offer manufacturers a more environmentally friendly option without compromising efficiency and quality.