3D printing is changing the world as we know it, because we can now produce three-dimensional objects such as cameras and even shoes in the comfort of our own homes.
It’s also having an impact on education: printers have been installed into schools enabling teachers to print 3D models. For example, if a teacher is giving a lesson about the structure of a boat, he or she could print a replica model of it to give the students a better understanding of the subject and thus keep them engaged.
Amazingly you can also now get a 3D-printed replica of a foetus using the image from an ultrasound as a guide; however, this is very costly. In comparison, 3D printing is a great way for manufacturers to test new products without spending large sums of money. For instance, if you wanted to replace a bike or a wheelchair part, you could print a 3D prototype to see how well it works.
3D printing is also transforming the medical world. 3D printers have already been used to manufacture prosthetic limbs, and in the future patients will no longer have to wait for an organ, as doctors will be able to simply print a new one.
Having said all of this, 3D printing has a downside as people can also use the technology to manufacture firearms. This means potentially anyone could own a gun without going to a shop to legally purchase one, and because the weapons are made from plastic they can pass through metal detectors.
So while 3D printing is extremely useful and has huge potential, as with any technology there are pitfalls and the equipment is still fairly expensive to buy, limiting its use. However, it won’t be long before 3D printing becomes more mainstream as prices come down and it will be interesting to see how it develops. In the meantime it’s certainly causing a lot of speculation with one well known early adopter, Will-i-am, telling Dezeen magazine that eventually we’ll be able to print human beings and we’ll need new ethical codes to cope with the implications.
The Lincolnshire Technology Hubs (part-funded by the European Union Regional Development Funds) in Boston, Horncastle, Lincoln and Mablethorpe all have 3D printers which businesses can use for just a small charge. To find out more visit http://www.onlincolnshire.org/broadband-for-business/lincolnshire-technology-hubs