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Future of 3D Printing: Applications in Medicine, Engineering & Environment

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Gone are the days when we depended on print shops to get photocopies or printouts. Today, we can get hard copies of any document in a matter of minutes at home.

The next thing to anticipate in printing technology is 3D printers. Soon enough, 3D printers will make their way into every home, office, and hospital. This would not be a surprising development as 3D printing has the potential to alter life as we know it radically.

Let’s talk about some of how 3D printing is going to change the world.

3D printing in medicine

It is now possible to print accurate replicas of body parts using data from CT scans. Furthermore, using a process called biotexture modelling, printed organs can simulate the texture and moisture of the actual organs. These models can help in planning tricky surgeries.

3D printing can also help to alleviate the pain of amputees. Prosthetics can be custom-built to best suit the needs of the patient. On a similar note, 3D printing allows doctors to create custom replacements when it is impossible to reconstruct fractured bones.

Perhaps the most intriguing use of 3D printing in the field of medicine is 3D printed organs.

Biotic tissue is more challenging to synthesise than non-living components. One of the earliest printed organs was the cornea of the eye, as it is avascular.

However, patches of functional liver tissue have already been printed. Experts predict that it will be possible to 3D print the heart very soon. By 2020, 3D printed partial liver transplants will most likely be a reality.

Also read: Futuristic Medical Technology: 5 things you should look forward to

Revolutionising engineering

3D printers can build entire houses in under twenty-four hours at the cost of $4000 per home.

No, you didn’t read that wrong. New Story and ICON formed a partnership to build safe, affordable homes for the homeless in El Salvador. They constructed the prototype in Austin, Texas.

Indubious, 3D printing of larger and grander houses shall soon follow.

Future of 3D Printing: Applications in Medicine, Engineering & Environment
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Metamaterials are another fascinating product hot off the 3d printing press. Metamaterials are those materials that are specially engineered to have properties that are not naturally occurring. Examples include optical invisibility cloaks and porous ceramics.

Their ability is a virtue of their physical composition, not a chemical composition. Hence, 3D printers can synthesise even the most delicate of metamaterials.

3D printing also finds its use in the automobile industry. It is a wiser choice to print replacement parts when required instead of manufacturing them without a demand. This helps to evade the potential monetary loss and damage to the goods.

Also read: 4 critical security threats the IoT boom poses

Saving our planet with 3D printing

It is no secret that anthropogenic activity has been slowly killing the Earth. However, what may come as a surprise is the fact that anthropogenic activity might be able to save it.

Dire threats like ocean acidification and bleaching have caused the coral reefs off the Maldives to perish gradually.Futuristic Medical Technology: 5 things you should look forward to In August 2018, Summer Island Maldives resort became home to the world’s first 3D printed coral reef. Each component is made of uniquely designed ceramic. Coral fragments reside in the depressions.

Though these artificial reefs cannot fix the problems in the ocean, they can protect corals from water currents and predators. They are also less vulnerable to climate change.

In time, perhaps it can shelter a rich marine community filled with fish, crustaceans, sponges, and anemones, much like a natural reef. Artificial reefs are a step towards reef restoration.

3D printing is indeed an invaluable tool that we can use to help the ecosystem. For example, Freddy, a severely injured tortoise in a forest fire, got a new lease on life with a 3D printed shell.

Of late, veterinary medical practitioners have been looking into 3D printing to provide custom-made prosthetics for our furry little compatriots.

Also read: Immortality might be closer than we think, Nanotechnology might be the link

Akshaya R

Akshaya R