If 3D printing is not on your CIO’s radar, it should be. While the benefits to your business may not be completely clear yet, the technology is making huge strides across several industries. And if the trend keeps up, 3D printers stand to completely disrupt supply chains and eliminate the need to import goods. Here are three industries using 3D printing to produce innovative products and services.
This summer, surgeons in South Africa used 3D-printed jaw implants to perform reconstructive facial surgery. The cost of the 3D-printed implants is 80% less than those created from metal blocks. Robohand, another company in South Africa, is creating custom-fitted, 3D-printed limbs to help individuals with missing hands and arms. They are quickly becoming a cost-effective alternative to standard prosthetics.
And in the Netherlands, researchers are hoping the technology may enable replacement body parts and organs.
Natural Machines’ new Foodini, a 3D food printer, categorizes itself as a kitchen appliance. Put your ingredients in, and the “printer” manages the food preparation. Essentially, it’s like having The Jetsons robot Rosie in your house, as you get a home-cooked meal without actually doing the cooking yourself. So, instead of you buying processed, premade foods, the printer can create healthier, fresher versions of time-consuming meals like ravioli or chips.
Meanwhile in England, this year’s Tech Food Hack (organized by Dovetailed and Microsoft Research Cambridge) included 3D-printed fruit.
For Finnish artist Janne Kyttanen, there’s freedom in traveling light. So light that she designed an entire outfit that was produced via a 3D printer, and envisions it as a way for people to replicate their clothes once they reach their destination. Milliner Gabriela Ligenza is also using the technology to produce hats, with a collection of 3D-printed hats gaining attention prior to British horserace the Royal Ascot.
So when does this become mainstream?
For industrial design and prototyping, the value is already there. But as consumers, we want high quality and we want an affordable price. At the very least, start revving up your imagination and sketching ideas. Once the technology hits a reasonable price point, the flexibility in manufacturing that 3D printers provide only stands to accelerate innovation.
What other products and services are you seeing as a result of 3D printing?