The Future of 3D Printing in Business

Category: Technology
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3D printing has revolutionized the way we make things, and the technology is evolving fast. The advancements in 3D printing have made it possible to create things that we have never been able to before, such as tiny batteries and incredibly effective water filters. Someday, we may even be able to use that technology to colonize other planets.

Additive Manufacturing Review

Sometimes known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing is done by programming a 3D printer with a design, and the printer will build to the exact dimensions of its blueprints. This is typically done by stacking layers material on top of each other.

One problem with 3D printing is that it’s hard to print on a small scale. When you’re working with one hundredths of a millimeter, the room for error is microscopic; though this technology is becoming more precise with time. In 2013, a team of researchers from Wyss Institute at Harvard University managed to print extra efficient microbatteries the size of a grain of sand. To do so, the team created an ink made of lithium-ion nanoparticles. It ended up being just as efficient as batteries found at the store.

Something as essential to life as water can even be affected by the advancements in 3D printing. In 2014, a company in Singapore developed a 3D printed membrane using an ink made of titanium dioxide. When exposed to ultra-violate light, like the sun, the titanium dioxide membrane can kill microbes. The membrane can also break down organic compounds so that they won’t stick, clogging the membrane.

Scientists are developing all kinds of new ideas for 3D printing here on Earth, but it’s also helping us explore space. The International Space Station currently comes equipped with a 3D printer on board. In 2014, Astronauts used it to manufacture objects in space for the first time ever. Typically, objects are printed out of a specific type of plastic called resin. NASA wanted to test whether things, like tools, could be printed in space. If so, crew members could print what ever they needed on the fly while in voyages. Researchers weren’t exactly sure if the zero pressure of space would affect the strength of resin. While on board the space station, 20 tools and parts were printed and shipped back to earth for testing. Results showed that the ordinary resin used by most printers was just as durable as on earth, showing that 3D printing would become a very critical part of the future. Aside from printing parts and tools for people on space stations and shuttles, this technology could be the answer to colonizing the moon. The first permanent structure on the moon will most likely be a giant 3D printed building made by humongous 3D printers using harvested lunar regolith, otherwise known as moon rocks.

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