Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll be at least slightly aware that 3D printing (or additive manufacturing) is slowly taking over the world. It's a phenomenon that keeps getting bigger as more and more people gain access to the machinery. Although the technology for 3D printing was first created in the 1980s, the current rapid spread can be accredited to its recent affordability. Also, the systems are now designed to be more user-friendly, so non-tech experts have been able to give it a go. Regular people and many businesses have been experimenting with the printer, creating all sorts of three-dimensional items, layer-by-layer, from a computer-made blueprint. Here are some of the most unexpected creations so far...
The health industry has welcomed 3D printing with open arms, allowing it to be used in numerous ways. For starters, medical professionals have been using the machine to print body parts such as hearts, skin, and ears, helping to potentially eliminate the need for organ donors. The process, now referred to as bioprinting, works by taking a patient's cells and using them to create sheets of artificial skin that can be surgically installed. In 2022, a woman underwent a procedure to receive a 3D-printed ear which took just ten minutes to print! Researchers in Israel have made progress in printing a 3D heart.
3D-printed fetuses are another incredible use of the advanced technology, allowing parents to hold their babies before they've been born. Using the images taken during ultrasounds, a three dimension baby can be created, replicating the exact details of the baby-to-be. This has numerous potential benefits, but perhaps the most important is the ability to check for physical abnormalities.
The food industry has also jumped on board the 3D printing train as scientists work to create 3D-printed meat and fish. This concept holds great promise as part of global efforts to move towards more sustainable food manufacturing processes. Just last month, a company named Steakholder Foods revealed their 3D-printed fish, which they created by taking cells from grouper fish and using it to make the ink. The Israeli company claims their printed fish and meat tastes and feels as good as the real deal. Could this process help solve food insecurity, organ supply shortages, and more? It certainly seems so.