Many years ago I had the opportunity to visit a university that had a 3-D “rapid prototype” printers. The concept was to take CAD drawings, send the instructions to the device and create a 3-D image by laying down layers of material. They would take a broken part or tool, create a CAD drawing of it, then feed the information to the controller to enable it to be rendered. It was a slow process, but it had the potential to allow for a number of things including the re-creation of hard-to-get and impossible-to-get machine parts, the refabrication of critical tools and dies, and the exact replication of 3-D items.
Fast forward to now. 3-D printing technology abounds with new applications for the technology surfacing every day. Now, if you want custom insoles for your shoes, that technology is there. If the International Space Station needs to replace a broken part, a 3-D printer onboard can create it. Want a pizza – now? Print it! They are even boasting that a house can be 3-D printed and built in 24-48 hours. See this link
A 16 year old high school kid in the region created a 3-D printed prosthetic arm for a family friends kid who was born without fingers on one hand. It works! Article Link. What a great story! Now the promise of building replacement organs at a cellular level is near reality. Printing eyes, bone, livers, kidneys and more is very nearly here.
I think it is revolutionary and it is changing the way we think about many things. It has the potential to completely change the distribution model for the secondary parts industries. No longer will they need to have warehouses full of parts. What might this do to the shipping and transit industry? How will this further compress time-frames? How could it change the field of healthcare and medicine?
Keep your eyes on this trend. It will be a big one and could likely change all aspects of our lives.
Anxious to hear your thoughts too!