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7 Practical Uses for a 3D Printer – OnlineBusinessDegree.org

The future is here! We now have 3D printing technology, which allows you to product three dimensional solid objects from a digital model! And as 3D printers become more affordable — the Solidoodle sells for just $499 dollars — more and more consumers are buying them and using them to make (drum roll, please) clamps! And paper-towel holders! And beer bottle openers! Woo-hoo! If you’re new to the world of 3D printing, you might be forgiven for wondering if there is any practical use for a 3D printer beyond printing up replicas of your favorite characters from Star Wars. But in the fields of health, construction, and even space travel, some truly amazing things are being done with this still relatively new and developing technology. Here are just seven surprising uses for a 3D printer – and the best part: doesn’t matter where you live – Georgia, Maine, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee – they are cool everywhere!

  1. Vintage car parts:


    Vintage car lovers are sometimes stuck with a vehicle that will no longer run because a single part is broken, needs to be replaced, and was discontinued back in 1910. Replacement parts for antique cars often no longer exist, and getting a machinist to make one from scratch can involve a lot of trial and error and will cost you a lot of money. Using a 3D scanner, like the one made by NextEngine, allows you to scan a part that needs to be replaced, and then print a plastic or, depending on the printer, metal replacement part.

  2. Body organs:


    Organovo is the first company to create a bioprinter, which replaces the ink drops of a printer with (and this is freaky) human cells. Although this technology is still at least five years away from clinical testing, researchers believe it will one day be possible to use an adult’s stem cells to print and grow a kidney, heart valve, or pair of lungs. 3D printing with cells also has the potential to build tubes for blood vessels, cartilage for joints, and patches of skin and muscle.

  3. Artificial limbs:


    The San Francisco-based Bespoke Innovations is using 3D printers to produce assembled and functioning artificial limbs for a much lower cost than what has been previously available. Thanks to scanning and digital modeling technology, a prosthetic limb can be customized to suit the body and particular needs of the recipient.

  4. Space missions:


    Getting a replacement part from planet Earth to an orbiting space station, or a rover on Mars, is not only technically challenging, it also costs a whole lot of money. 3D printers may soon allow astronauts and scientists in space to resupply as needed, possibly using, if on the moon, natural material from the moon’s surface in combination with a binding agent to create whatever part is needed.

  5. Structurally sound houses:


    Is it possible to build an earthquake-proof building? Construction companies may one day be able to use an experimental technology called ‘Contour Crafting,’ which combines Geographic Information System data with 3D printing, to build and rebuild structurally strong buildings in earthquake-prone locations like Haiti. The cost would be a fraction of what traditional construction companies currently charge. The Italian designer Enrico Kini is working toward using large scale 3D printing technology to produce entire, two-floor stone buildings made of sand and an inorganic, liquid binding agent.

  6. Prosthetic jaw:


    Researchers in Belgium and the Netherlands recently collaborated with a company that makes implants and a manufacturer of metal additives to create a prosthetic jaw for a patient suffering from a severe infection of most of her mandible. The replacement jaw was created using a 3D printer and powdered titanium, instead of plastic, to sculpt the jaw. A bioceramic coating was applied so that the patient’s body would not reject the implant.

  7. Haute couture shoes:


    This may seem a little silly after talking about space travel, prosthetic limbs, and earthquake-proof buildings, but yes, 3D printing technology is being used to produce some pretty fancy ladies footwear. Designer Mary Huang’s strvct 3D printed shoe collection is a collection of web-like, completely wearable shoes, that will set you back $900 a pair. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from buying a 3D printer, for less than that amount, and taking a shot at printing up your own pair of haute couture shoes.

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