The genesis of 3D printing technology can be traced back to 1986, when an American engineer, Chuck Hull, created a prototype for a process called stereolithography. Often referred to as ‘the father’ of 3D printing, Hull laid down the foundation on which the modern 3D printing technology is built upon. From increasing cost-effectiveness and efficiency to spurring innovation, the technology has made a significant impact on the manufacturing industry in the past couple of years. Here are five revolutionary applications of 3D printing technology and how they are transforming our daily lives.
Food Ink did a restaurant pop-up
In the first-of-its-kind concept restaurant in London, 3D printing specialist Food Ink introduced a three-day dinner pop-up series in 2016, where everything, from the food to the restaurant’s furniture and even the cutlery were all 3D-printed. The eatery conducted live sessions for its guests, offering a uniquely immersive experience of witnessing the printing in action and tasting some 3D-printed food. The food items on the menu were all prepared using the company’s ByFlow Focus 3D-Printers and fresh natural ingredients. The food printers use pureed ingredients filled in bags, which are squeezed and guided by its robotic arms to create aesthetically spectacular dishes.
Porsche is printing parts for classic cars
Porsche recently announced that its Porsche Classic division has started using the technology to 3D-print obscure parts for its vintage cars. Using traditional production methods to manufacture these rare parts in limited quantities would otherwise be an extremely expensive affair. However, 3D printing has allowed the company to make cost-effective replacement parts to order, which also eliminates storage overheads. Porsche is currently 3D-printing nine such replacement parts, using steel or plastic to keep rare and valuable classic cars on the road.
GE is doing airplane engines
GE was one of the first to introduce the technology into the aviation industry. The company, which built the first American jet engine in 1942, created a working mini jet engine made entirely out of 3D-printed parts back in 2015. While it was an experimental project, the company now uses the manufacturing technology to make engine components for commercial planes. In 2016, GE started testing its new engine, the GE9X, which has a sizeable number of 3D-printed parts. The GE9X is also the world’s largest jet engine ever, which has been designed for the upcoming Boeing 777X commercial aircraft. 3D-printing technology has helped the company to render parts once impossible to make, using conventional methods.
Youbionic prints prosthetics
Scientists have been working on human capability-enhancers, such as robotic prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by the brain and provide sensory feedback. Additive manufacturing technology plays an important role in turning this dream into reality. Youbionic is a company that was started in 2014 with the sole purpose of creating an augmented human. The company has introduced a unique 3D-printed two-handed prosthetic, which can be controlled by flex sensors on the human operator’s fingers. Although the current functionality of the wearable is limited, it gives us a peek into the future, where capability-enhancing prosthetics will become a part of our daily lives.
BIOLIFE4D hopes to print a human heart
3D-printing human organs for transplants may soon become a reality. BIOLIFE4D, a biotech startup, is soon going to open a lab in Chicago and begin perfecting the process of 3D-printing human hearts, that could eventually be used in transplants. Working with researchers in university labs, the technology will use the patient’s own cells, in what is called bioink, to produce a patient-specific, fully-functioning heart.