STEMpower

3D Printing for the Future

3D printing is quickly becoming a machine of the future. Its uses are seemingly endless, and its accessibility is becoming more universal. The first 3D printer was introduced in 1987, but its widespread applicability and scalability has only been within recent years (more specifically January of 2009). By 2012, commercial retailers were able to acquire this new technology, and consumers were soon being educated on the 3D printer’s unique capabilities (Goldberg, 2014). PCS is excited about the growing number of uses of the 3D printer, and has been reviewing its powerful applications in our camp and class, which are not limited to, but include printing concrete, NASA’s plans to create a moon space station, and 3D scanning in the medical industry.

A few years ago, a company in China was able to harness the power of the 3D printer and amazingly constructed 10 houses a day. Using recyclable materials and concrete, Winsun (the company) assembled building blocks by creating a cement and glass mix which allowed for air gaps that successfully provided adequate insulation for each house. Amazingly, the price of the homes were marked as being as low as $4,800. Such activity could become the norm in America given the 3D printer’s remarkable speed and lower output costs. Not only that, the inclusion of environmentally-friendly materials could dramatically reduce the planet’s environmental problems (Blain, 2014). 

Not only can the 3D printer be used to construct houses, NASA has conducting research that may lead to a creation of a lunar base by way of 3D printing. Obviously, dirt on the moon is widespread, and scientists are tinkering with the notion of transforming the dirt into a space station. The lunar dirt (or regolith) is stimulated using a combination of silicon, aluminum, calcium, iron, and magnesium oxides (Gannon, 2012).  Because the variable conditions in space could be a constraining factor on production, this idea may be more of the future, but given the rapid pace of technological development, the future may be sooner than NASA scientists think. Also, most recent studies have shown pronounced promise since the release of this research back in 2012.

The medical industry is quickly onboarding with the 3D printer, too. Two-dimensional radiographic images are readily available to offices and doctors and have proven to be beneficial in numerous areas, but 3D printers have the capacity to actually create customized anatomical and medical structures, taking 2D images to new heights. This will result in greater understanding of previously hard-to-discern conditions and will enable physicians to provide their patients with better, less expensive implants and prostheses, build vascularized organs, and bioprint tissues (Ventola, 2014).

The astounding ways in which 3D printers have revolutionized architecture, astronomy, and medicine have fostered greater innovation among even young students. PCS is excited to be part of this process, and invites STEM learners everywhere to join the movement!

References

Goldberg, D. (2014, September 5). History of 3d printing: it’s older than you are (that is, if you’re under 30). Retrieved July 23, 2016 from https://lineshapespace.com/history-of-3d-printing/

Blain, L. (2014, April 23). Chinese company uses 3d printing to build 10 houses a day. Retrieved July 23, 2016 from http://www.gizmag.com/china-winsun-3d-printed-house/31757/

Gannon, M. (2012, December 4). 3d printer could transform moon dirt to lunar base. Retrieved July 23, 2016 from http://www.space.com/18694-moon-dirt-3d-printing-lunar-base.html

Ventola, C. (2014, October). Medical applications for 3d printing: current and projected uses. Retrieved July 23, 2016 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4189697/

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