Last year we wrote a post about the introduction of 3D printers to industry.

We made some assumptions about how education, engineering and architecture industries would be likely to use this latest technology. Well 18 months down the line, let’s take a look at the developments of 3D printers and see how they are being used.

The commercial cost of 3D printers has reduced and their use seems to have been incorporated into just about every industry possible.

Hollywood and the film industry has embraced 3D printing wholeheartedly, with costumes, models and monsters all now being made using 3D printing techniques. This article tells in more detail how the production of concept models etc. is much quicker and easier using the latest technology.

Manufacturing and engineering industries are saving money by producing prototypes, test and sample parts using 3D printing.

The medical industry has been able to use 3D printing to aid in the production of prosthetics giving some patients a whole new lease of life. See this article for the latest story from France.

3D Printers in UK Education

A recent pilot by the government across STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and design subjects concluded that the use of 3D printers in schools in the UK ‘has significant potential as a teaching resource and can have a positive impact on pupil engagement and learning’. Funding has been made available to train teaching staff in their use and we will hopefully see the introduction of 3D printers into schools across the country. Read the report here.

Currently in the UK there are two types of 3D printer available. A build it yourself version (yes, you have to build the printer yourself from component parts!) which costs in the region of £700 and the easier, works straight from the box printer available for anything from about £1200 upwards. So whilst 3D printing is being incorporated into many industries and the cost is coming down, it will still be some time before we all have one sitting on the cupboard next to our desks.

However, no sooner are we getting to grips with 3D printing, it seems that a 4th dimension is on the horizon. A recent article by The Engineer highlights the fact that the University of Colorado Boulder are opening up the possibility for the creation and use of adaptive, composite materials in manufacturing, packaging and biomedical applications.
By incorporating shape memory polymer fibres into the composite materials used in traditional 3D printing, the researchers have enabled the production of an object fixed in one shape that can later be changed to take on a new shape. Read the full article here.

What’s your opinion on the future of 3D printing? Have you bought a 3D printer for your own personal use? If so what are you using it for?

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