December 1, 2017

3D Printing: The Industry 4.0 technology that changes the way we live, work and play printing

A 3D printed house

Making physical artifacts, bikinis, fashion toys and trinkets are mundane stuffs you can do with a 3D printer. They are printing houses in Russia, model concept cars in Japan, fighter jet parts in UK and customized spacecraft and instrument parts at NASA. The ominous part is that this creative technology might also be used to destroy. If you can make spacecraft parts, you can make missiles and guns. There is already a video at You Tube of someone firing a few rounds of live ammunition from a gun with 3D printed parts.

No more “die waiting?” printing

WIP: 3D printed organs*

The life-saving breakthroughs are encouraging and the potential is mindboggling, to say the least. In China, a 3D printed part of the vertebra was successfully implanted in a boy, low cost prosthetic limbs for amputees are being 3D printed and successfully used, people are using 3D printed robotic exoskeleton (WREX) to enable the functionality of their limbs and reconstructive surgery on the face of an accident victim had been successfully performed with the aid of 3D technology and the 3D printer.

The scientists are now into printing human tissues, including brain tissues. Skin and body parts such as the nose and the ear have been printed with the injection of live tissues from a 3D printer. Thousands of people die every day in hospitals all over the world, waiting for donor organs. In another decade or so, this will probably be a non-issue. Can you imagine that? Even if you can’t, this will materialize, maybe earlier than you think.

This is a report from Stat, a health, medicine and science discovery site:

“By contrast, 3-D printing is increasingly being used in the clinic for things like customized knee and jaw replacements using plastics and titanium. Those medical and dental applications represented a more than $500 million global market in 2014, according to Wohlers Associates, a Colorado-based consulting firm focused on 3-D-printing.”

Can you eat your heart out?

Your culinary experience will be changed by the 3D printer. They are printing chocolates and other food today. You can have food in any shape or configuration you want. You can even eat your own 3D printed brain, if you are up to it. NASA is also working on enabling astronauts to have 3D printed food in space. You can truly eat your heart out in the future!


What is 3D Printing?

The world is going to be addicted to additive. This is how it works.

Prior to the printing process, a CAD (Computer Aided Design) file of the object you want must be created using a 3D modelling program. A 3D scanner can be used to replicate an existing object. The 3D modelling software slices the final model into hundreds or thousands of horizontal layers.

The printer will create the object layer by layer driven by the uploaded prepared file. This is called additive manufacturing, the 3D printer reads every 2D sliced image of the object and creates the final three dimensional object by blending the layers immaculately. Depending on your needs, the current commercial materials include thermoplastic, polymers and wax.

How cool is that?

The 3D printing industry is expected to grow by 20%-35% annually. It is expected to be a $ 12 billion industry within the next decade, from $ 3.7 billion in 2013.

Why does it matter to you? While the boom for personal 3D printing is projected to be, probably, 10 years off, it is projected to be one of the robust growth areas. It’s back to the “making computing personal” days. You will have a personal 3D printer, which are available today in the $ thousands to $ tens of thousands for a commercial one. It is expected that a personal 3D printer will cost less than a thousand dollars in a few years. printing

A 3D printer sold on

However, in the next few years, you can expect to see community 3D printing shops of hubs where you can get the object of your desire produced in 3D, as long as you can get a file prepared in CAD. Amazon has a 3D printing store. These are small and medium business opportunities you can explore.

There will be new jobs created such as 3D designers and printer technicians and maintenance engineers and others, in the spectrum of jobs needed to support the growth of the industry. The idea is to get ready for this boom.

3D printing, it is a disruptive technology that is going to change the way we live, work and play, creating new business and career opportunities. Don’t be mistaken, this is not a future opportunity, like Industry 4.0, it is gaining momentum.

If you are keen to learn more about 3D printing, visit the Penang Digital Library (PDL). There seven books on 3D printing you can borrow. Tech Dome Penang and Penang Skills Development (PSDC) have run introductory 3D printing courses. The Penang Science Cluster (PSC) is running an introductory workshop on December 8, 2017.

Some day. You can expect your mechanic to get the precise auto part your car needs printed in his workshop, while you wait. A JIT (Just In Time) service. A brand new part. Direct from the 3D printer to your car! No more waiting for out of stock parts. And probably cheaper too. How cool is that?

*picture credit: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine