Have you seen the new 3-D printers on the market? These things can actually print a three dimensional solid object! How cool is that?
While it may seem that these little beauties have suddenly sprung up out of nowhere, the technology has actually been coming since the 1980’s. We all need to give big congratulations to a man named Charles W. Hull. He is the innovator who first invented the language of the 3-D Printer and first patented the term ‘stereolithography’ which is a fancy word that means there is a now a system for generating 3-D objects.
Even after all these years of development, three dimensional printing is still considered to be in the infancy stage. For all you innovators out there, that means it is pretty much an open market with plenty of room for improvement, new technology and a possible global impact on manufacturing coming down the pike.
Three dimensional printing has the potential to greatly impact society for the better. Princeton just announced that their researchers have been working on building a bionic ear with three dimensional printing. This bionic ear will have the capability to detect frequencies a million time higher than the average person can. Move over Jamie Somers the Bionic Woman, your bionic ear is about to become obsolete. This three dimensional ear could have a profound impact on allowing hearing impaired people to hear.
Ears could be just the start. With the thousands and thousands of people on the list for life saving organ transplants, think of the amazing potential three dimensional printing could have if researchers can use innovation to figure out a way to print organs for transplant. How amazing would it be to give transplant patients a longer, better quality life without having to use organs from a cadaver?
Of course, no good deed goes unpunished. With all of the wonderful possibilities that three dimensional printing has to offer, in 2012 a group got a lot of attention when it distributed instructions on how to make a working gun with this technology. This means anyone with a 3-D printer could make a gun. The United States State Department and Homeland Security got involved and the instructions on that particular site were taken down.
Instead of focusing on the bad things that could come from this technology like guns, let’s focus on the good. Research on possible new applications of three dimensional printing include making space travel safer and less expensive, reconstructing fossils for the study of paleontology, helping the study of archeology but replicating ancient artifacts and building construction. For all the CSI fans out there, three dimensional printing has to potential to help with forensic pathology by recreating bones, body parts and other evidence from crime scenes.
The possibilities of three dimensional printing are fascinating and endless. Perhaps it is the holy grail of innovation as it has the potential to do so much good in the world. It will be exciting to see what they print next!