As 3D printing begins to mature, the technology is set to revolutionize a number of key industries in the near future.
Among the hundreds of new technologies that have emerged in the past decade, 3D printing probably has the greatest potential to disrupt the industrial world and revolutionize our economy.
According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), the 3D printing market is expected to bring in over $35 billion in revenue by 2020. This is compared to about $16 billion in 2016, with a compound annual growth rate of more than 24% over five years (2015-2020).
The IDC report claims that the sectors that have generated the largest portion of 3D printing revenues in 2016 were the automotive, aerospace, defense (additive-manufactured parts), and dental industries with signs of much more growth to come.
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Desktop 3D printers are becoming increasingly more present in schools as a new tool that can inspire and engage both educators and students alike.
For education, 3D printers can be used as an engaging means to stimulate students’ creativity and prepare them to effectively integrate into the professional world.
3D printers could be a particularly powerful teaching tool in classrooms for students in various courses such as physics, chemistry, and engineering by giving them the opportunity to develop real-world skills.
Furthermore, geography students could study an area more thoroughly via 3D-printed topography maps or demographic charts. Biology student could print out cross-sections of different body parts and organs. Engineering and graphic design students will most likely benefit more than others with their ideas becoming 3D models in an increasingly efficient and precise way.
Although 3D printers still can’t print out entire organs with living tissue and functioning vasculature, the 3D printing medical revolution is already in motion, bringing countless benefits to physicians and patients globally.
3D printing is a becoming an integral asset for doctors, allowing them to save time and gain precision in their work for a far better result for their patients.
In that regard, the healthcare sector is ripe with devolvement opportunities. Orthopedists, for example, are using 3D printers to make biocompatible and custom-made implants for their patients.
In 2016, the FDA has approved SPRITAM, the first 3D-printed prescription drug to be sold in the U.S. This drug, developed by Aprecia Pharmaceuticals, will focus on treating individuals who suffer from epilepsy.
Other than implants and prosthetics, 3D printers could also be used for the rapid prototyping of medical devices.
The defense applications of 3D printing are potentially huge.
For the military, additive manufacturing could reduce logistical concerns by allowing the building of high-quality and realistic prototypes to speed up the production of objects on demand.
The US Navy, for example, plans to turn its ships and aircraft carriers into floating factories utilizing 3D printers. The goal is to be able to manufacture some of the necessary parts or equipment on board without having to wait for often unpredictable and dangerous resupplies at sea.
In 2016, the NASA and the U.S. military used 3D-printed components on prototype spacecraft, airplanes, and ground vehicles which were all tested to successful levels.
On a related note, in the wake of recent mass shootings, 3D-printed guns have been invoked by anti-gun advocates as a new argument in the firearms control debate.
Access to guns, or the way they’re made, is only one issue of violence in society, but being able to just upload a file to a 3D printer to get an untraceable weapon is a worrying prospect.
The advantages of 3D printing for architects is similar to many other industries on this list in the newfound the possibilities of materializing projects as fast and as precise as possible.
In architecture, interior architecture, or interior design, 3D printers can serve as a way to communicate ideas to customers and incorporate feedback more effectively.
With 3D printers, architects and designers can create detailed and enduring 3D models of their designs in-house, by directly using computer-aided design (CAD) files they have designed themselves.
3D printing and fashion are a match made in heaven.
Some professional fashion creators have already started using 3D printing technology, which has helped to give free rein to their creativity.
3D printers already have a variety of their materials list that is ever expanding. This has allowed many designers to make models with complex and extravagant shapes and overcome the technical constraints of traditional manufacturing techniques.
However, it is not just professional designers who could benefit from this technology.
3D printing will make a big shift in the consumer paradigm as users at home will soon be able to produce household objects for everyday use in their own home without being dependant on the manufacturer.
This could lead to a gradual change in the consumer marketplace where companies sell the designs of their goods rather than the product itself. The implications and benefits of this change are hard to predict, but they will certainly be considered as 3D printing becomes more commonplace in the home.
From clothing and footwear to accessory items like jewelry, gloves, and handbags, 3D printing could redefine high fashion by bringing in a whole new level of customization. Users could also unleash their own creativity and breathe life into their designs at reduced costs.