How 3D printing is changing the world

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

3D printing
3D printers are so useful because they can print up and down, left to right, and front to back. Oh, and they can print cute little green turtles like above.

Imagine a future where everything from body organs to toys can be printed from a magical machine. Well, that fantasy is now a reality, thanks to the 3D printer – a device that can be programmed to make 3D objects in just about every shape and form. In fact, 3D printers are revolutionizing fields like medicine, entertainment, and business industries, because of their limitless functions.

Although most 3D printers use a special type of plastic as their form of “ink”, medical researchers have managed to build printers that use living cells – like the BioBots desktop printer. The resulting tiny biological units can then be shaped into different body parts such as ears, blood vessels, bones, skin, and bladders. Though these body parts are relatively simple to create, researchers are working on ways to create more complex organs with multiple functions, like the human liver.

Medical breakthroughs are also being made without using living cells, as scientists have created 3D-printed pacemakers – devices that provide tiny electrical pulses to keep the heart beating. These printed versions perform much better than the older kind, and don’t ever need to be replaced. In fact, the highly efficient, cost-effective, and customizable crafting of 3D printing is also benefiting the world of printed prosthetics – artificial limbs that replace lost ones – as well as uniquely tailored casts to mend broken bones.

On a less serious note, 3D printers can also provide loads of fun. For instance, a start-up company has found a way to read the thoughts of children and print toys straight from their imagination. Others have created instruments, cameras, birdhouses, phone cases, shoe soles, drones, and just about anything else you can think of. Now that one man created a 3D printer out of Legos, these devices are sure to become as common as household microwaves in the future!

Finally, the printers are doing big things in business industries. We’re talking everything from 3D-printed clothes for fashion, to rocket company SpaceX’s Iron Man-like computer technology. Even the European Space Agency is using 3D printing to create spaceship engines and energy generators that hold the power of the Sun. The fact of the matter is, 3D printers may eventually make just about anything better than existing methods. They’re so valuable, you just might want to get one for yourself!

Featured image courtesy of Subhashish Panigrahi on Wikipedia. Image courtesy of Keith Kissel on Flickr.