The applications of 3D printing is simply mind-blowing. Let your imagination go wild and just think of some of the things that could happen. A good example of this is in the movie The Fifth Element which shows a fantastic 3D printer repairing the body of a crash victim with only the hand as a reference – far-fetched but amazing in concept.
In the future it’s conceivable to think that we will be able to create custom body parts and perhaps body parts with enhanced features. E.g imagine 3D printing a heart that was resistant to heart disease, that would be incredible –how would that change healthcare? And how would it affect how we use our bodies or view our bodies if we knew replace parts where easily accessible and in some cases better.
How about 3D printed eyes with zoom functions so that you can see further or perhaps even ‘light reactive corneas’ that auto tint when exposed to light – similar to the way cats pupils change shape to varying degrees of light. Or imagine 3D printed eyes that can interact with new tech such as Google Glass – it would be incredible and yet you must wonder what kind of access to this ‘digital real world’ would do to the workings of the human brain.
The rapid advancement in materials for 3D printing could also mean that different materials become compatible with the human body to enhance the physical limits of the body. Remember Johnny Mnemonic where the main character was couriering secret information with hardware implanted in his head? (Ouch!) Could it be possible to ‘mesh’ 3D printed materials with our body to create seamless interaction between body and technology without cutting sections of our brain out? In the future I believe so.
3D printing is a gateway to a host of wonderful and crazy new technologies, materials and applications for the human body as well as future medical retail platforms. It is already changing healthcare as it is but that is only the beginning, in the near future we will see 3D printed replacement body parts such, corneas, skin grafts, ears among others. In the long term its likely that a 3D printed heart will be created, perhaps lungs as well and finally how about a 3D Printed brain…how would that work?
The 3D Modeling Gallery, the place where you download your favorite 3D models for 3D printing or Upload your favorite 3D models for others to download or buy. The market place is really heating up, there is new functions, new products new ways of downloading, cloud slicing and new ways of selling your digital content.
This is all great news of course, it means that the customer (user) is getting a selection of pretty dam cool models from a variety of content providers. Not only that it is allowing independent artists, designers and makers to create their own designs and sell them through these online galleries. Its pushing innovation and pooling the collective knowledge of artists, designers and engineers. 3D modelling sites have also given rise to great initiatives such as Enabling The Future which gives access to people who need prosthetic limbs that are affordable, functional and often very cool 3D printed alternatives.
Pinshape a Canada based 3D model gallery is user driven meaning that all of their designs are created by a community of designers, engineers and creators. Interestingly Pinshape also allows for users to stream 3D models from their site using 3DPrinterOS, a 3D printing cloud based system. This offers lots of IP protection for designers who don’t want unauthorised copies of their designs on the market. 3DShook another 3D model gallery offers users a different option with a subscription service to access their 3D models that have been created in house by their design team and is guaranteed to print. Then there is cgtrader a 3D computer graphics model site that has be operating since 2011 and now has a dedicated section for 3D printing.
Of course many 3D Printer manufacturers have their own 3D galleries to support their printers such as the XYZprinting gallery and Thingiverse. There are other 3D model databases out there too, such as Yobi3D and Yeggi who are able to organise huge amounts of 3D models from the internet and store them in one place.
There is one certainty for the future 3D modelling gallery landscape, it’s here to stay, it’s likely to transform over the years but access to 3D model content is definitely going to shape how we buy, sell and use products.
3D Scanning is going to propel the 3D printing industry into main stream retail for one reason. That reason is, the easier it is to scan, the easier it is to make custom products – and you can make a lot of custom products with 3D printing. It is definitely a 3D marriage.
‘Is your shoe size 9? Oh wait are you shoe size 9 US? Oh you’re an 8 in the UK? Wait, it still doesn’t fit. This is getting confusing.’ Shoe sizes are a thing of the past, it simply won’t exist, your foot will be scanned (using a 3D scanner), you will have custom fit shoes made to your exact foot size, isn’t that much better than generic show sizes? Something made to fit your foot, not to mention the customizable options available using a 3D printer.
And it gets much better, 3D scanning isn’t only for feet, it’s for the whole body. You will be able to scan your body and custom make every item you have. You can scan your body and get perfectly tailor made clothing and accessories.
There are number of 3D scanners and applications on the market at the moment, the XYZprinting Intel handheld scanner is coming to market soon, I have used it and it’s impressive. Other interesting portable 3D scanner manufacturers include Cubify with their Sense scanners which also has attachments for the iPhone and iPad.
But there’s more to come with 3D scanning, there is an increase in 3D scanning apps using your mobile phone camera. Autodesk 123D Catch allows you to scan using photographs from which it automatically generates a 3D object – however it’s a little tricky to use. SOLS the custom insole designer company is using the iPhone and iPad to capture the precise dimensions of your foot from only 3 photographs which is truly outstanding, imagine 3 snaps from your phones camera and then you have a custom designed shoe. It’s amazing.
It’s great for safety too, got a motorbike? Well you probably want a good safety helmet for that, how about a custom designed helmet using your exact head measurements? That’s safer and more comfortable. 3D scanning and 3D printing is already being applied in the medical industry with outstanding results and its application in retail among other industries is hugely exciting, we are truly entering a custom world.
The question is – how can 3D printing help the people of Nepal?
With the awful disaster in Nepal, it made me think, how we can use 3D printing to help those people, to help anyone in an emergency. The first solution that comes to mind is the 3D printed buildings, in China they 3D printed 10 houses in 24 hours, that would help solve some of the building issues in Nepal right now. The temporary secure structures that could be printed include hospitals, shelters, offices, storage and docks. It may even be possible for the construction material to be harvested from the collapsed buildings.
In a disaster area everything becomes limited, using 3D printers to create on-demand 3D printed spare parts maybe faster than shipping them in and allow some time for exact components to be shipped in.
Speed is the number one issue with 3D printing in an emergency however companies like carbon 3D are creating 3D printing technology that prints very fast and would be useful in an emergency but it’s a bit off now.
Again, I ask you the question – how can 3D printing help the people of Nepal right now?
3D printing food technology will introduce us to three course candy’s containing ‘Tomato soup, roast beef, and blueberry pie’, sounds familiar? That recipe is the creation of Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
3D Printing food is going to revolutionize how we make food. Chefs are going to create gourmet dishes that where only available in their dreams, romantics will be giving chocolate printed versions of themselves to their loved ones and cafes will see an entirely new definition of the Cup Cake. Foodies will explode in excitement with what 3D food printers will offer them.
Food 3D printing works in much the same way as a typical 3D printer however instead of using plastic this new generation of 3D printers are using food, such as bread, cookie dough, chocolate, sugar among others.
We are still in the early days of 3D printing food but what’s on the horizon is already sending people and companies alike into a food frenzy. Not long after 3D Systems previewed their Chefjet and Chefjet Pro models Hersheys was teaming up with them to make geometric chocolate which look simply awesome. We have seen 3D printed pizza although at this stage it still needs to be baked in an oven after its printed but it is still a fantastic step forward. The current state of food 3D printers is mostly based on sugar and chocolate based ingredients as their natural composition lends itself well to 3D printing.
Imagine every bakery, café, gourmet restaurant and cup cake creator with a 3D printer, they will create new desserts never thought of, have unparalleled consistent quality and send your taste buds on a flavor expedition.
The future of the catering industry is at the cusp of becoming digital enhanced. Welcome to the beginning of the age of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Mass customization is here and growing steadily. Product customization has always existed with a choice of colours, sizes, materials etc but the cost kept it out of most people’s reach. Now with new technologies in software, logistics, manufacturing and of course the web the custom market is growing.
With the commercialization of 3D printing we have seen a wave of new customizable products, for example Normal who makes custom fit ear phones, that’s ear phones that fit to your ear and only your ear. Going to the other end of the body you have SOLS custom shoe insoles tailored to each person, recently the company also received $11 million dollars investment to expand their custom service. Customization through 3D printing has also found its way into prosthetics, Bespoke Innovations brought style to prosthetics by customizing the form to fit the user better as well as creating beautiful designs resulting in a radical shift in the prosthetic industry.
Lets not forget 3D printings twin, 3D modeling software. 3D modeling allowed companies to create high end e-commerce experiences. Nike iD the online custom shoe interface by Nike was launched in 1999 and is a great way to customize your own shoes online and see the results instantly. Upperstreet a shoe design studio also uses a 3D model interface which allows users to create individualized high end women’s shoes.
With new online tools becoming available such as Twikit that allows businesses and designers to offer customers a platform to customize and print a base design is an exciting way forward to express individuality and functionality.
3D printing gets a lot of press and that’s because the things you can make with a 3D printer can be remarkable. 3D printed bones, ears, corneas, pizzas, houses, space stations, solar panels, planes, cars, jewellery, tech accessories, cats its almost limitless what can be printed but we aren’t actually creating them on the 3D printer we are creating them on 3D modeling software.
Behind the limelight of the 3D printer there is a rapidly increasing list of 3D modeling software companies all wanting a piece of the STL export world. There is literally an abundance of 3D modeling software out there, you are spoiled for choice. You have Blender a super powerful free 3D modeling and animation download for Windows and Mac; Grasshopper a graphical algorithm design plugin for the paid for Rhinoceros 3D as well as a host of powerful 3D apps such as 123DScuplt+ and Tinkercad, the choice is incredibly.
Of course in the world of the Oculus Rift its only a matter of time before we see totally fluid fully functional AR 3D modeling which is very exciting for anyone who feels detached from the object while using a mouse. For a glimpse of what’s to come have a look a this Sketchup plugin by AR-media.
With paid for software competing with free software who is going to win the STL export war? Or is the 3D modeling industry simply going to be divided with free touch screen graphical modeling for hobbyists and paid for software for engineers and designers?
Got a 3D printer? If so, you have likely experienced 3D Printing Fails. A 3D printing fail is the point that you’re beautifully crafted 3D model turns into a blob of molten plastic or if you’re lucky a piece of 3D printed abstract art. 3D printing fails are part of the experience of 3D printing, typically the more detail you have in a model the higher the chance of failure, 3D printer maintenance and material can also effect this. As the 3D printing industry continues to grow what will we do with all of these 3D printing fails?
It’s true that 3D printing one object can be more efficient than using traditional manufacturing techniques however as 3D printing scales up and the industry is reportedly set to be worth almost $5 billion dollars by 2018 that translates into a huge amount of failed plastic as well as support material for your object that is simply discarded. Plastic is harmful to the environment so when we do use it, it’s best we don’t use more than we absolutely need and its best that we don’t create waste plastic such as ‘3D printing fails’.
There are companies out there with products that recycle plastic filament such as Filabot which is a really interesting concept and a good way to avoid directly binning those failed prints and support material. However when we start moving on to resins and composite 3D printing materials it complicates the situation again, my question to you is…
What do you do with your failed 3D prints?