From bionic limbs to custom clothing, 3D printing has the ability to transform the world and the way we live. Indeed, the positive trend is already taking hold.
What separates 3D printing from most other revolutionary technologies is its wide reach. 3D printing has the potential to dramatically alter almost every industry and the technology is advancing and driving changing business trends.
Before the invention of sewing machines in the 18th century, every garment was made by hand. Fast forward to the 20th century and we have the benefit of mass production and global factories.
However, more often than not, the clothes created in mass production are often of a low quality and there is a lack of individualism in design, a touch millennials in particular prefer in their fashion choices.
3D printing is changing all that. Not only does 3D printing allow for the creation of custom-fitted garments, but it is also giving birth to brand new materials and allows for the creation of garments with zero-waste, important for the ever growing pool of environmentally and socially conscious consumers.
In 2010, four recent MIT graduates frustrated by what was on offer in ways of work attire decided to try and create something new. Using “space suit technology from NASA”, the forerunner to 3D technology, they created a line of dress shirts that were able to control body heat and reduce sweat production.
As the clothing line expanded, so did the business opportunities. The same MIT graduates decided to use 3D printing to further innovate. The result is a series of clothing that is custom-created with little to no excess.
3D printing has also made innovative waves in the construction industry, etching a path to more affordable housing for lower income brackets. New Story, a non-profit organization, recently showed that 3D printing-designed housing will be accessible to the masses.
New Story estimates that three billion people will be living without access to adequate shelter by 2050 — a 200% increase over the next three decades. With this figure in mind, they decided to innovate and use 3D printing to create affordable and practical solutions.
In using 3D printing for construction, much like using 3D printing for garments, there is little to no waste created, contrasting with traditional and often wasteful construction techniques. On average, a 3D printed house takes 24 hours to make, unlike the months behind conventional methods.
Using 3D printing to contribute to philanthropic causes, however, doesn’t stop at housing. Philanthropist Tej Kohli was an early investor in Open Bionics, a ‘Bristol-based bionics company known globally for using 3D printing and 3D scanning, along with some clever software and design, to make advanced, affordable and accessible bionic limbs.
The first clinical trial using 3D printing to create custom prosthetics was done in 2017. Tilly Lockey, having lost both hands as a baby after developing meningitis, was given bionic hands almost a decade later by Open Bionics.
Seeing the success and understanding the possibilities Tej Kohli funded the purchase of ten 3D printing-made bionic arms for children with limb differences in the UK.
But 3D printing’s potential doesn’t stop there. TCT Magazine claims that the 2020s will be defined by automotive manufacturers who move seriously into the electric vehicle market.
3D printing provides fast prototyping which allows manufacturers to produce car parts at a much quicker pace, which in turn drives down production costs and ultimately prices for the consumer. Rather than ordering and waiting for parts, car-makers that adopt 3D printing will simply make them in-house and speed along their production.
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