3D printing technology has been called the next technological revolution that could change the way we think and live. Its proponents say it allows individuals to realize their creativity in a quick and easy, though not necessarily cheap way. Although it was invented 30 years ago, it has yet to make a major mark on most people’s daily lives. Despite the high cost of materials, 3D printing can still be more affordable and eco-friendly than buying “real items” and is more developed than any rival technology. Even in age-old industries, like music, the cutting-edge technology is offering new possibilities.
Artists used to need days or even months and years to create sculptures of their subjects. But now, a 3D body scanner can capture a subject’s exact body shape and every detail of the appearance in just 15 seconds, automatically uploading the data to a computer and printing it out.
But it doesn’t stop there. Luxury pens, earrings, necklaces, clothes and even shoes are all just a print away.
Experts say in 10 years, the world will be in an era of intelligent manufacturing which will completely change the way we live. And 3D printing technology will be entering an era of “3D technology 3.0” by integrating advanced Internet, big data, and cloud computing.
At present, 3D printing and scanning technologies have been mainly used for personal interest and consumer goods, but experts are optimistic about its future development into other industries like car-making, medicine, architecture, and even aerospace.
“On the industrial side as well, we’ve seen more parts going on aircraft. So aircraft are looking to use these parts. They’re going to be lighter. They’re going to be more efficient. So it’s a major fuel saving. So the environment is going to benefit from that,” said Graham Tromans, chairman of the World 3D Printing Technology Industry Alliance Council.
To apply this technology in all walks of life, there is still a lot of work to be done for the scientists and makers.
“In order to widen the application of the technology, we need to make the materials better, we need to make the machines faster, we need to make machines a hundred times cheaper, in order to see these technologies being applied. In the future, the technology will be able to print biological materials, print organs to repair body parts, but it might also be able to print iPhones and gadgets, and technology. And this is the most important development, I think, we’re chasing,” said Bill O’Neil, professor of laser engineering at Cambridge University.
There are still obstacles that 3D printing will have to contend with in the future if it wants to move into the mainstream, such as copyright issues. But for now, with costs continuing to fall, and accessibility growing, this technology’s potential appears as limitless as one’s imagination.
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