makerbot 3d printer3-D printing, to me, still sounds like something out of the future.  It’s a hard concept to grasp if you think about it.  In order to manufacture something, you physically need to make the parts and assemble it.  But not any more.  With 3-D printing, you can give your printer the design and instruction, press print, and you will have your product.  Ok, I’m over simplifying, I know.  But that’s kind of what it does.  We have a couple of these at work, and they are mostly used to teach people how to use them.  And I can only imagine what today’s youth will think of next.

3-D printing has huge benefits to the medical community.  There are stories of doctor’s being able to patch up a heart using this technology, essentially saving a person’s life.  A company has used 3-D printing as a way to make skin. While this is solely for cosmetics use, the benefits can be seen in the medical community also.  A prosthetic limb can be made cheaper using 3-D printing.  Taking money out of the equation when it comes to our health care.  We are also seeing benefits to people needing hip or knee replacements.

prosthetic hand

Small medical devices like hearing aids are being produced using 3-D printing.  Traditionally, these types of devices would be made by making a cast of your ear.  From there, a person would make the device by hand, which could take up to a week.  Now, with 3-D printing, after the cast is made, the device can be printed in less than a day.  Therefore getting the device you need faster, but also allowing the manufacturer to help more people than they previously could.

While these are just some examples of what is being done in the medical industry, there are many more.  Not to mention that this kind of technology is opening up new and innovative ways to deliver some of these systems.  It is changing the way that we think about manufacturing, and how to produce certain products.  Will it be the way of the future for many of us?  Will we be able to print something in our homes, rather than going out to the store to buy it?  Think about how far we have come with computers.  From being large and clunky, and taking up a lot of space, to being able to fit one in the palm of your hand.  Technology is changing in ways that many of us can’t wrap our heads around, so it only seems logical that this type of technology would be available for consumers in the future.

The idea of 3-D printing could also make things a bit more local.  3-D printing can make you more green and support your local economy.  How, you ask?  If I live in Toronto and need a particular product, I can go online and order it from a 3-D printer in Toronto or somewhere else local.  No need to cross the border and have your product vetted and shipped through customs.  You are supporting a local business, and possibly reducing the amount of time that it would have taken to get that product.

3d printed frogs

Further, and maybe the most important aspect of 3-D printing, is that it fosters creativity.  The possibilities are endless with what can be printed and created.  It is continually pushing the boundaries of what is possible.  And I think that’s amazing.  In a time that seems to be lacking hope, I think this kind of technology is going to make a difference in the world.  It is helping so many people, and yet it is so highly unrecognized.  Many people aren’t aware of it’s existence, or even what it can do.

By Staff Writer

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