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Larger Than A Paper Jam: The Future Of 3 D Printing

1918 words - 8 pages

Have you ever wanted a miniature statue of yourself? How about a homemade handgun? A spare liver? All of these items are vastly different, yet extremely similar. The items can all be made with a 3D printer (Heritage). Modern three-dimensional printing, more commonly called 3D printing, can be traced back to Charles W. Hull, who in 1984 filed a patent for a "system for generating three-dimensional objects by creating a cross-sectional pattern of the object to be formed" (Patent US4575330). In recent years, 3D printing has been employed by governments, manufacturers, and a select group of private users.
The process of three-dimensional printing is controlled entirely by a single machine—the 3D printer (See Appendix A). For a traditional method to create its products, a 3D printer first requires a series of “digital slices”—the blueprint—of an object (How 3D Printers Work). To create the shape, the printer will layer on a hardening liquid according to the blueprint, lower the internal tray a miniscule amount and repeat the process. (How 3D Printers Work) However, there are other methods that can be employed for 3D printing. Instead of layering on liquids to form the shape of an object, some printers will chisel away at a block of powdered plastic or metal with either lasers or electron beams. (How 3D Printers Work) The lasers or electrons beams will then harden some places as the blueprint calls. (How 3D Printers Work) Whatever method employed, the process of 3D printing can go on for a long time, such as taking 12 hours just to make a vase (Heritage). Despite the long process, 3D printing is surely a technological miracle, doing what was once thought to be impossible: creating a product out of seemingly nothing.
As with all “miracles” of modern science and technology, the field of 3D printing is constantly evolving and advancing. This rapid change in the industry begs a question: What is the future of 3D printing? All aspects of 3D printing’s influence and use indicate the answer to this question lies not in one field, but in many. Most of all, the future of 3D printing lies in the medical industry and business.
The first field where three-dimensional printing has a future is the medical industry. For example, 3D printing has been used by scientists to create a human kidney (Davies). 3D printing can also create a bladder, “grown” in a lab from living cells. (Davies) This type of 3D printing, known as “bioprinting,” best exemplifies the medical capabilities of a 3D printer. Like normal 3D printing, bioprinting requires a design of the product that will be produced. (The Bioprinting Process). Then, the printer will utilize living cells as the building material, using hydrogels as binding material when needed and using the familiar layering process (The Bioprinting Process). Currently, these organs are being created experimentally. However, the success these experiments have shown suggests a greater use of 3D...

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