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Future Tech: 

6 ways that 3D printing is changing the world

3D printing

How can this 3D printer possibly change the world?

3D printing is making its presence felt in 2014 with frequent appearances not just in tech news headlines, but increasingly the world around us.

From printed Robocop costumes and bump keys, to houses and NASA expeditions, it’s seemingly possible to 3D print almost anything as the industry develops and matures with each passing day. The printers themselves are changing too, becoming increasingly user-friendly for the average consumer. The Micro for instance, which describes itself as the “first truly consumer 3D printer,” smashed its $50,000 Kickstarter goal in just 11 minutes.

Our list for today, then, highlights six key ways in which this new technology is infiltrating our life and changing our world.

1) Transportation

How cool would it be if you could actually print your vehicles of choice?

This might not be the case just yet, but a project from European Aerospace and Defence Group (EADS) has at least put the wheels in motion. The Airbike was created by using a 3D printing technique called additive layer manufacturing (ALM). The techniques involves melting down nylon layer-by-layer to create an eco-friendly, super-light bike that could be the first of many vehicles to be printed instead of manufactured. Take a look at the video below and be amazed!

2) Music

3D printers might not produce the most harmonious melodies when in progress, however they may still have a part to play in the world of music.

Olaf Diegel has created ODD guitars aiming to further personalize an already very personal item. Using a 3D printing technique called Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) that builds the components by spreading a thin layer of nylon powder, Diegel has created guitars that appeal to the individual and are made-to-order to fit your needs and preferences.

If you’re not much of a guitar player, 3D printing may influence the music industry in other ways too. Amanda Ghassaei graduated from Pomona College in Claremont, CA in 2011 and began working for Instructables where she developed a technique for transfiguring digital audio files into 3D-printable, 33rpm records. As you can see from the video below the process is quite complicated and the quality of the sound isn’t about to win any awards, but as 3D printing grows so does the potential for improvement.

3) Toys

3D printing does not only affect a wide variety of areas of modern life but it does so across all age groups. For evidence, look no further than Monstermatic.

Starting as a Kickstarter project, Monstermatic is the result of imagination, an iOS app and the art of 3D printing. Brought to us by Clayton Mitchell and his California based team, Monstermatic gives users the chance to design their own monster on the app, play with it in digital form and then order it to be 3D printed and delivered to their door. Choosing from a range of colours, body postures, eyes and accessories, users can create unique monsters of their own liking. Cool, right?

4) Medicine

We highlighted some of the marvels of 3D printing in medicine a few months ago, but our list grows bigger and bigger.

Mick Ebeling, the co-founder and CEO of Not Impossible Labs, was moved by a story in Time Magazine, and launched “Project Daniel” – by using 3D printing technology he created cheap prosthetic limbs, designed to be simple in operation and user-friendly but above all be affordable for people in need. Time Magazine has the full story.

The advances of 3D printing in medicine do not stop here. A collaboration between the University of Sheffield and Fripp Design and Research aimed to revolutionize the way we recreate human tissue for nose and ear replacements. Funded by the Wellcome Trust the two parties managed to create an innovative solution to the problem of making soft tissue prostheses using 3D printing. The new technique is faster and financially sounder than the process that existed beforehand. Take a look at the video below to get a more detailed explanation of how it works.

5) Fashion

When you hear fashion and 3D printing you’re probably thinking accessories, but potential in the industry doesn’t end there.

The N12 bikini holds the title of the first 3D-printed item of clothing. Being the birth-child of a collaboration between Continuum Fashion and Shapeways, the bikini aims to be printed according to the customer’s body type following a full body scan. According to Mary Haung of Continuum Fashion the bikini is made of “thousands of circular plates connected by thin springs, creating a wholly new material that holds its form as well as being flexible.”

Another innovation in 3D-printed fashion came from Kipling, who collaborated with Materialise to create “City Jungle Shopper” – a bag made of interlinked monkey designs. Using the ultra-flexible material TPU 92A-1 the two companies managed to blend design and technology to bring to life a bag that could be very well be the beginning of a lot more projects between major brands and 3D printing companies.

6) Food

Printed food might not sound all the appetising, but it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve been amazed by 3D printing.

Astronauts put their lives and taste buds on the line to explore the life beyond Earth’s boundaries. The least we could offer in return is food with flavour. The Systems & Materials Research Corporation (SMRC) seem to agree with us so they have invested in 3D printed food to aid space expeditions. What’s on the menu? 3D printed pizza, of course.

Because any meal (even an astronaut one) is never complete without dessert, 3D printing technology is making sure that it also caters to a sweet tooth. At this year’s SXSW people could print their own variations of Oreo cookies by simply using a vending machine. Choosing from 12 different flavours including birthday cake, banana and lime with either a chocolate or vanilla base, visitors could have their cookie printed in just two minutes. The machine was put together by MAYA Design and despite being only a targeted advertisement, we can’t help but wonder what we could print in the future! Reese’s? Cadbury? Now that’s a future we want to believe in.

Photo: Stefano Tinti /

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