From self-repairing pipes to printed organs, to t-shirts that are bulletproof. These very avant-garde-sounding things are likely to arrive with the new 3D printing technology. The new 3D printing technology was the hottest topic at the TED conference held in Vancouver, Canada in April of this year. Five of these trends are particularly noteworthy. 3D printing technology is likely to change people’s lives in the future.
Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, predicted that Nike is likely to become a pure software company in the next decade, thanks to 3D printing. In the future, traditional product manufacturers won’t have to provide users with actual products. Instead, they will release copyrighted 3D-printed blueprints. Users can simply print the product at home or at a nearby 3D printing store.
Digital 3D printing factories are also growing rapidly around the world. This means that traditional forms of production are beginning to shift. Direct digital manufacturing can reduce global sourcing, manufacturing costs, provide more local jobs, and also help to compress production costs.
3D printing is far more creative than people can imagine. Custom materials will lead to a broader scope of development and numerous innovative experiences. Already, doctors have successfully created a tool for environmental knee disorders through 3D printing. The material itself contains painkillers and slowly releases antibiotics over time. Some forward-thinking companies are also experimenting with graphene as a 3D printing material. It’s soft, flexible and 100 times stronger than steel. Cell printing is not unattainable either, with positive implications for the field of artificial organs and transplants.
Jennifer Lewis’ extremely team at Harvard University has successfully printed nanoscale lithium batteries. This lithium battery is only the size of a grain of sand. It can be used to power miniature medical devices, small electronics and even ultraminiature robots. Nanotechnology has already had initial success in the field of 3D printing and will play an important role in the future.
More and more fashion designers, and even large luxury brands, are experimenting with 3D-printed designs. This is because of some limitations of traditional manufacturing, which often cannot satisfy the designer’s wild ideas. 3D printing is different, supporting multiple materials, easy and fast production experience, and can efficiently turn the designer’s ideas into reality.
What is 4D printing? It’s a new concept developed by Skylar Tibbits from MIT. It’s based on 3D printing but adds more variability. The product is able to change at some point in the future based on environmental changes. For example, automatic pipe repair, running shoes that can provide waterproof function according to environmental changes, etc. Although it sounds quite sci-fi, with the development of new materials and sensors, it may soon become a reality.