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Advancements in 3D printing have inspired unique opportunities for the future of 3D Printing

It should come as no surprise that 3D Printing is moving in leaps and bounds. Credible sources have stated that manufacturing, medicine, and general products will see a transition to using 3D Printers in the foreseeable future. And, while the scope of 3D printed consumer products is vast, here are a few areas which will shape the future of 3D Printing.

Medical 3D Printing

Additive manufacturing within the realm of medicine will see a push to customisable treatments. These treatments include prosthetics and possibly artificial intelligence reporting. To address the first advancement, the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine has shown that they can print a wide range of body appendages, including bone and muscle, with the potential of using the patient’s own cells. The ability to 3D Print these body parts would allow Doctors to precisely replicate any lost appendage. Furthermore, because the appendage is built from the cells of the patient, there is a reduced possibility of rejection from the patient’s own body.

The second possible future for 3D Printing within the sector of medicine includes the integration of 3D design with nanotechnology. Specifically, the ability to print “smart” technology into implantable casings may be the next step in modern medicine. Manufacturing of miniscule electronics has already been accomplished by way of a lithium-ion micro-battery. If one considers that there is an extreme focus on artificial intelligence within the realm of medicine, such as the Department of Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre cardiac imaging software or IBM’s Watson computer system, as well as the advancements in the additive manufacturing process, then you could conclude that there will be a merger soon. Consider the impact that 3D Printing would have if injectable electronics could monitor high risk patients and immediately contact a doctor or a physician should a problem arise.

The “home” factory

Combining the ability to have an affordable 3D Printer with the diverse range of products which can be created from the additive process, the desktop 3D Printers are very likely to have an extreme impact upon the consumer market. Customers when given the option could, theoretically, make their own products based upon the CAD models of the provider. Instead of waiting for the product to ship, the company could simply provide the customer with the CAD model via email or download link. The customer could thereby print the file instantaneously, avoiding shipping and waiting times. In this way, the assessment from the Smithsonian Magazine would be correct in their statement that “3-D Printing will democratize design and free us from the hegemony of mass manufacturing.”

3D Printing in Education

3D Printing, as well as computer programming, has been part of the curriculum in State Schools here in the UK since September 2014. While the integration of computer technology and engineering practices are not new to education, it should be noted that the specific dedication to teaching additive manufacturing process to younger pupils suggests the stability and the projected growth of such technology and procedures globally.

3D Printers themselves have their own place in the future of education. Teachers, students, and faculty can produce learning materials, such as rulers and compass’, for potentially a fraction of the cost. It should not be implied that schools are ineffective in their ability to provide students with proper equipment for learning. Rather, the argument is that the ability to manufacture supplies, specifically those supplies which are considered to be added luxuries and not essential, could lead to elevated learning which would otherwise be outside of an institution’s budget. This flexibility could lead to greater fiscal margins for education whereby those funds can be allocated to other sectors thus boosting the learning environments of the school as a whole.

The future is limitless

One can see that the future of 3D Printing has no bounds, we are only limited by the imagination and the limits of technology. As such, we should not be surprised in the push forward of desktop 3D Printers, advancements in smart technology and advancements in artificial intelligence integrated with 3D Printed products. Yes, the market is primarily dominated by commercialised providers, industrial manufacturing, and a selected few entrepreneurs. However, as the availability of personal desktop 3D printers becomes more affordable, and as CAD software becomes more user friendly, the market and the selection of 3D consumer products will expand. While the days of physical store shopping are not likely to fade due to this, it is predicted that having a 3D Printer will greatly decrease the necessity to frequent them.

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