An example of how 3D printing is helping architects to bring their models to life. // Source: aeccafe.com

3D printing is a strand of technological advancement that rarely hits mainstream information channels – perhaps there are more important things to consider… That being said, there are still huge breakthroughs in the field that make it an exciting prospect to keep an eye on as we head into the future. The usage of 3D printing is fairly narrow in practice today, however, to some professionals it is becoming ever more significant, take architecture for example: contemporary architects tend to use computer programming for ease and speed of use, accuracy and reliability. These models can then be inputted easily into 3D printers and a complex, physical model is ready in a few hours.

Sure, this is very cool indeed, but is there something more important that 3D printing can do in the grand scheme of things? The most fascinating of these, for me anyway, is the notion of human organ printing:

The great hope of transplant surgeons is that they will, one day, be able to order replacement body parts on demand. At the moment, a patient may wait months, sometimes years, for an organ from a suitable donor. During that time his condition may worsen. He may even die. The ability to make organs as they are needed would not only relieve suffering but also save lives. And that possibility may be closer with the arrival of the first commercial 3D bio-printer for manufacturing human tissue and organs. [Source: The Economist]

SEE ALSO: TED TALK – Anthony Atala: Printing a human kidney

The function of 3D printing does not stop there, take Markus Kayser, a maverick in the 3D printing industry, uses his hi-tech SolarSinter machine (that works on Selective Laser Sintering) to create art and form. With the heat of the Saharan sun and the sand as a medium for printing, the glass structures that are eventually created can be programmed in accordance with the sun’s movements:

In a world increasingly concerned with questions of energy production and raw material shortages, this project explores the potential of desert manufacturing, where energy and material occur in abundance.

In this experiment sunlight and sand are used as raw energy and material to produce glass objects using a 3D printing process, that combines natural energy and material with high-tech production technology.

Solar-sintering aims to raise questions about the future of manufacturing and triggers dreams of the full utilisation of the production potential of the world’s most efficient energy resource – the sun. Whilst not providing definitive answers, this experiment aims to provide a point of departure for fresh thinking.