3D Printing

New technologies have made it possible to print digital pictures as 3 dimensional objects. People have been using 3D printing to print various thing, like face models, tools and even houses!

So, instead of going through a manufacturing process, it is increasingly becoming possible to create objects in a much cheaper manner. Potentially, people could print the objects that they need from their homes.  Your child doesn’t have an eraser for his homework? No need to go to the shop.  Print it on your 3D printer!

How does 3D printing work?

Basically, innovators have built special printers that are able to transform an image from a digital file and transform that image into an object that you can touch, feel, pick up and potentially apply it to practical use. The material used in the printer to print the object varies depending on what type of object is being printed.  For example, filament materials have been developed to imitate wood in its appearance as well as its texture. Infusing carbon fiber into printable plastics, makes a strong, light material. Iron oxide-free Portland cement powder has been used to create architectural structures up to 9 feet in height. It is even possible to use multiple materials on the same object.

Potential use cases

  1. 3D printing could be used to print prosthetic human parts such as legs, arms, noses and ears.  
  2. For education: Instead of using real cadavers or to create realistic models, 3D printing can be used to model how human insides are structured. For younger students in primary and secondary school, 3D printing could be used to show them objects that they may have not access to e.g. demonstrating what a crater looks like in geography or printing a model Grand Canyon that children in Africa can see and experience.
  3. Low cost housing: Advances in 3D printed housing has the potential to improve the types of houses that low income families can own.
  4. Food: Could we get to a place where we can 3D printed nutritious food? Imagine telling the computer to print tonight’s dinner.
  5. Recycling plastic: 3D printers could be designed to accept used plastic as material and convert that plastic into a different objects such as shoes or furniture.  This would be good for the environment. 

This is an interesting space to watch as new and exciting business models could be made possible in the future.