3D Printers’ Past Applications
The use of 3D printing was not always as accessible as it is now, and to top it off the true potential of its capabilities remained unrealized for years to come. Similar to most inventions, it takes years of experimentations to understand the scope of possible applications. As well as business entities prepared to invest time and resources into research and development.
Good thing this world does not lack visionaries able to see past the tools and technology presented to them, we have always had innovators dedicated to changing the world as we know it. Sometimes changing the world by accident. Many inventions were concocted in order to address one problem within an industry but ended up having applications that completely change the trajectory of human innovation. 3D printing is a great example of these types of inventions.
According to an article posted by 3D Sourced, “The complete History of 3D Printing: From 1980 to 2021“, the process behind the 3D printer design was actually roughly outlined as a joke in the early ’70s but the first 3D printer would not be developed until 1987. These initial models would be very large machines not made with the intentions for the more compact applications we make use of today. In fact, the article would compare initial models to small tents and even small cranes.
These printers would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and be meant only for niche projects. Initial projects in the ’90s ranged from wax molds to 3D printing houses, with even greater applications left to be discovered. The early 2000s is when the invention would begin to realize its true potential in the marketplace by discovering more of its capabilities and accessibility.
From jewelry and houses to dental industries and bioprinting possibilities, the 3D printer proved useful in various markets. Notably, those in the medical field were very excited over the possible bioprinting capability because of shortages of organs available for transplants. In 2002, a miniature human kidney was created at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine according to the same article posted by 3D sourced. This advancement from the early 2000s and present capabilities to 3D print with living cells, theoretically, brings us closer to 3D printing major organs like hearts.
3D Printings’ Enhanced Scope
After so many achievements, great minds would continue to further the capabilities and affordability of 3D printers. With great affordability, comes great accessibility. Opening the door for creatives to introduce the seasoned invention to new challenges that proved to be no match. The 3D printer would go on to be able to print in various elements and create so many products, that of course it would be put to use helping us both get to space and create things while out in orbit.
By 2014 NASA was able to 3D print the first object in space, but it would be far from their last. According to 3D Sourceds’ article on the history of the 3D printer, they expect future astronauts to be able to create tools on-demand in space. In the meantime, companies in the aerospace industry have recently been investing heavily in 3D printing for prototyping and even manufacturing as stated by an article, “3D printing paves path to orbit with game-changing space applications“.
This article highlights the increase in the use of 3D printers, especially their ability to surpass prototyping services only. The new technology would showcase production capabilities with various aerospace companies, such as the joint venture ArianeGroup who successfully used a 3D printer to reduce the number of parts in an injector head from 248 to just one. The tech in turn allows companies to reduce issues currently being experienced in the supply chain, as discussed in our previous article “Alarming Global Supply Chain Challenges Leave Aerospace Industry Frantic“.
Avoiding those supply chain troubles and reducing the number of raw materials used in production has given many aerospace companies a reduction in cost, and even in the weight of their constructs. The domino effect then goes into play as production time speeds up and our innovators can then reach their goals at a faster pace.