While 3D printing seems well suited in the plot of a futuristic sci-fi novel, it is well within our grasp. Using a variety of materials that includes wood, metal, plastics and fabrics, we are now able to print various three-dimensional objects, ranging from food, spare parts, weapons, homes, organs, medical devices, clothing and more. Yet what effect will these present capabilities have on our future? We uncover five important ways 3D printing will change the world.
1. 3D printing can end world hunger.
We’ve all been there: making food sounds like too much of a hassle, yet buying it seems equally oppressive. While this age-old issue has plagued us for decades, three-dimensional printing now offers a viable alternative. Say you’re craving a deep dish pizza. Instead of calling the delivery guy, you just choose your pizza and toppings and print the deep dish pie from the comfort of your home—Seriously, NASA recently granted Systems & Materials Research Corporation $125,000 to develop a pizza printer.
Food companies and manufacturers are already toying with designs and recipes that use 3D printers to create delectable treats. While food printing capabilities might reduce the need for a midnight snack run, in the bigger picture, 3D printing could also eradicate—or greatly reduce—world hunger. According to researchers, using nutritionally complete cartridges of powder and oils that can be stored for decades, developing countries will be able to print nutrition-dense foods that aren’t dependent on circumstances such as weather, crop availability and location.
While these developments are still a few years out and must take into account cost, how to install them in households and train its users, 3D printing has the potential to aid in solving one of the world’s biggest social problems. Check out this video of one 3D printer prototype, the Foodini, printing everyday foods:
2. 3D printing will empower medical innovations.
One of the most incredible benefits of new 3D printing technologies is the ability to improve medical care for a variety of illnesses, diseases and injuries. Bioprinting allows doctors and medical providers to print replicas of human organs—such as this printed liver—and customized bioresorbable devices like lung splints.
Scientists have also been working on a printer that can print skin grafts over burns and other injuries using “ink” that’s made from different skin cells. Unlike traditional burn remedies, this innovative skin printer requires a patch of skin that’s only one-tenth of the size of the burn. While many of these innovations are still relatively new, 3D printing technology will likely transform the medical landscape. Check out this video on the 3D skin printer:
3. Industries like housing will become more affordable.
Right now, buying a quality 3D printer could easily set you back a few thousand dollars—and that’s not including the various cartridges one needs to actually print anything useful. Yet in the future, as the cost of these technologies decreases, 3D printing could drastically lessen the financial burden of various goods and services, including that of the housing market.
In fact, researchers from the University of Southern California built a 3D printer that uses layered fabrication technology to build a 2,500 square foot home in a single day. Called Contour Crafting, this fabrication process opens the door to a variety of beneficial housing scenarios, ranging from cost-effective low-income housing to improved disaster relief to quick and simple home design. Cheaper, faster housing alternatives could have an enormous social effect in developing countries, but also in more developed areas where rents are rising as wages fall. Check out this video of the Contour Crafting prototype in action:
4. 3D printing will invite a rise in knock-offs.
In the beginning, nobody predicted that it would be easy to pirate music, movies, books and other media. With the rise of 3D printing, people are now predicting that many previously untouched industries (such as fashion) will become vulnerable to piracy and highly-skilled copycats. Say you’re getting ready for a night on the town, but you don’t have the right outfit. Instead of borrowing from a friend or heading to the mall, you go online, find an outfit design you love, download the design and print it from home.
Assuming you have the correct textiles to work with, the three-dimensional possibilities are endless. Take, for instance, the free shoe designs from Janne Kyttanen, which can be downloaded and printed overnight. Other possible knock-offs include sculptures, furniture, art and more. 3D printing is bound to create more opportunities to poach creative ideas for profit or gain.
5. Serious consequences can result from 3D printing technology.
Aside from piracy, three-dimensional printing’s growth could have even more insidious effects. In 2013, Cody Wilson (founder of the Texas-based company Defense Distributed) created the world’s first homemade three-dimensional plastic gun using 3D printing technology. Shortly after, the company Solid Concepts printed one of the first all-metal 3D guns. Check out this video on Wilson and his 3D weapon:
As the cost of 3D printing falls, access to three-dimensional guns and other weapons will naturally increase. Not only will these weapons become more easily attainable, but they will also become more difficult for the government and authorities to monitor and police. Wilson uploaded the CAD files for his plastic rifle, called the Liberator, so that any individual can download and print the weapon, assuming they have the correct materials. While 3D printing has its fair share of benefits, this downside could be deadly.
Via All That Is Interesting: 5 Ways 3D Printing Will Change The World