What would you do with a 3D printer? If the people developing these apps have anything to say about this, you might be surprised. 3D printers are very exciting these days, and it’s not hard to see why. There’s something fundamentally cool about watching a physical object bleed out of cyberspace through the end of a print head.

3D printers, for the uninitiated, are devices that apply layers of material (usually plastic), slowly creating a three-dimensional object from a data file on a computer. You can print anything with them, and the cost drops quickly. There are already several options. available to consumers, and we even reviewed a review and a free one famous printer in the past.

Like 2D printers, 3D printers will likely have their own limitations. For example, for the mass market, suitable for all items, such as silverware, it is always cheaper to use mass production than to print it yourself. However, there are some things that are simply not cost effective (or in some cases even possible) to produce in the traditional way. In these cases, 3D printing has a back.

5. Individual Super Throws

If you were even a teenager, there’s a good chance you broke at least one bone, probably while doing something stupid. If you remember this experience, you probably remember an uncomplicated, painful, and incredibly itchy experience. The casts, which have been used for decades, take months to set the bone, isolate the limb from light and air, and eventually become so dirty and sweat-soaked that the CDC must open a case file on them.

3D printing allows doctors, instead of using flexible materials that conform to the user’s body, to use a rigid, impermeable material to hold the limb in place. Using 3D scanning of the user’s hand, the fit can be perfect. By leaving gaps in the material, the hand receives sun and air, can be washed and does not get dirty. It also looks pretty cool.

What’s even cooler is that since the material is hard, you can attach an ultrasonic transducer to it for twenty minutes a day, which speeds up the healing of the tear by as much as 80%, meaning you don’t have to have to take off as long as possible and less likely to injure a limb. Dr. Houseman, the designer, said it was the scientific basis.

We know that ultrasound works. […] There is compelling evidence presented most recently in two papers published in « Journal of bone and joint surgery, leading journal in orthopedics.

4. Plastic weapons

In regards to ATF and various countries’ concerns about restrictive gun control laws, it has recently been proven that it is possible to 3D print ABS plastic weapons (excluding bullets, striker, and a single spring). The most famous prototype is called the «Liberator» and is capable of discharging a clip in real-world conditions. This has serious implications for the enforcement of firearms regulations around the world.

On a larger scale, the US Army is looking at developing 3D printed warheads as a way to more precisely control the behavior of explosives and quickly prototype designs. James Zunino, a materials engineer for the US Army, is excited about the possibilities.

Once you get into the physics of detonation, you open up a whole new universe. […] . The real value you get is that you can get more safety, lethality, or operational capabilities from one location.

3. Prosthetic limbs

Researchers have also made amazing strides in recent years with prosthetics—unfortunately, these advances have largely been very expensive, often out of reach of the people they seek to serve, who may be out of work due to their disability. Even relatively simple mechanical prostheses often cost tens of thousands of dollars due to their specificity and the need to customize them for each user.

This is the perfect use case for 3D printing and several options are already available. Perhaps the best known is the free download «Cyborg Beast», which provides a natural five-finger grip (with one degree of freedom) and can be printed for about $50. Is it as good as the nimble Luke Arm? No. Is it better than a huge range of mid-range dentures? Absolutely for people with the appropriate type of injury. And, as technology advances, we’ll see better and more diverse options available for amplitude patients, all at a very cheap price, thanks to 3D printing.

2. Living organs

Sometimes you need more than limbs. 79 people receive organ transplants every day, and eighteen people die while on the waiting list. Of the people who receive transplants, many need another one before the decade is up due to the inability of the immune system to integrate foreign tissues. To reduce this risk, patients must take immunosuppressants throughout their lives, making them much more susceptible to opportunistic infections. The whole situation is a mess that can be fixed with 3D printing.

Using 3D printing techniques to lay down collagen structures (protein scaffolds that hold your cells together), doctors can make an organ’s hollow shell. This sheath can then be seeded with stem cells to make working living tissue ready for transplantation. If stem cells are cloned from a recipient, you can actually refill the organ with their own tissue, eliminating most rejection problems and allowing the organ to be viable for a much longer time.

Kidneys are possible right now (although they are not perfected or approved for use in humans), and hearts are under development. Other organs, such as the lungs and liver, are further away (but not impossible). Eventually, these technologies could be used to completely eliminate organ shortages and discover new life-prolonging therapies. Your risk of heart failure increases dramatically after middle age. We could preemptively replace everyone’s heart with a younger copy every 40 years, just to be on the safe side.

In the case of terminal, metastatic cancer, we could improve the patient’s chances by replacing each affected organ system with 3D printed replicas. The unlimited number of biocompatible organs dramatically changes the nature of medicine.

Recent advances in this field include the ability to «vascularize» tissues by 3D printing functioning capillaries. Dr Luisa Bertassoni from the University of Sydney says:

We have shown that we can print these capillaries, we have shown that they are functional, that they mature to form capillaries, and that we can tailor them to the sizes and structures that we need.” […] Tissue engineering to create simpler tissues has been a reality for several years, and with what we have been able to achieve, we can start talking about larger, more complex tissues that can survive longer.

1. Laboratory meat

Organs are quite difficult to assemble by the standards of these things: some of them have beautiful, intricate structures that are difficult to 3D print using today’s technology. Luckily, food manufacturers can use the same technology for something with much more error tolerance. Namely meat.

The meat is excellent. Delicious, juicy, tasty meat. Unfortunately, it is also expensive, which is considered by many to be unethical and environmentally friendly. 3D printing using the same techniques described above could allow manufacturers to print hamburgers, steaks and bacon from collagen and then seed them with stem cells. Stem cells fed on vegetable protein and nutrient syrup can grow living tissue with far fewer resources than traditional livestock and without animal cruelty.

Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal, venture capitalist and philanthropist, has donated $350,000 to a startup called Modern Meadow that is trying to do just that.

One day, 3D printing may provide meat that is greener, cheaper and more ethical. This can be a powerful tool for feeding the world. It also opens up culinary possibilities that would not be possible with traditional farming, including mixed meats (steaks fried in bacon for extra flavor) and meats from extinct or endangered but delicious animals that can’t normally be farmed. .

It is becoming increasingly clear that 3D printing will be a powerful force in the future industry, and perhaps the most powerful applications have yet to be thought of.

What excites you the most about 3D printing? Are you planning to buy a 3D printer? Let us know about it in the comments!

Image Credits: 3D Print via Shutterstock

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