It’s going to be a 3D-printed world—we’ll just live in it

  • As 3D printing becomes increasingly ubiquitous, it’s rapidly spurring innovation in seemingly every industry.  In honor of the technology’s disruptive influence and the 3D-printing focus at UBM’s upcoming New York design and manufacturing event on June 13 to 15, we’re shining the spotlight on seven areas on the cusp of exciting change, thanks to 3D printing. Click on the image above to start the slideshow.

    Find out what’s new and what’s coming in 3D printing at the 3D Printing Summit at PLASTEC East. Go to the PLASTEC East website to learn more about the event and to register to attend.
  • Local Motors' Strati


    An open platform of innovation proved to be the secret behind the development of the world’s first 3D-printed electric car. In 2014, Local Motors manufactured the Strati based on a winning design submitted by an Italian automotive designer. Consisting of a three-part process, the manufacture of the 1800-lb Strati entailed 44 hours of additive manufacturing on a large 3D printer, 10 hours of subtractive milling, and rapid assembly of fewer than 50 components—a far cry from some cars’ 6000 parts. Topping out at about 40 mph, the Strati is made from carbon fiber–reinforced ABS and features several non-printed mechanical and electrical parts. While Local Motors has been driving this field forward, it’s not the only company innovating in the space; small companies and automotive powerhouses such as Honda alike are also exploring the possibilities of 3D-printed cars.

    Photo Credit: Local Motors

  • Dani Peleg


    Fashion-forward designers have been turning to 3D printing for avant-garde inspiration. In 2013, designer Michael Schmidt debuted the world’s first fully articulated 3D-printed gown on burlesque icon Dita Von Teese. Israeli designer Danit Peleg took the concept to the next level in 2015, however, by producing the world’s first 3D-printed ready-to-wear fashion collection using only home printers. As 3DP moves from runway to “real life,” experts believe that people will be 3D printing their own clothes at home in the not-too-distant future.

    Photo Credit: Danit Peleg

  • Adidas Futurecraft 4D shoe


    All of the footwear industry’s leading companies are getting into the 3D-printing game with an eye toward performance innovation as well as customization. New Balance was first to market with the limited-edition Zante Generate in April 2016, which the company touted as the world’s first high-performance running shoe with a full-length 3D-printed midsole. The race for innovation in this field is on, however. Adidas announced a limited release in December of its 3D Runner, which features an engineered 3D web structure designed with dense zones in high-force areas and less-dense zones in lower-force areas as well as a 3D printed heel counter. Nike, meanwhile, showed its commitment to the technology through a partnership with HP last year. Not to be left behind, Under Armour unveiled its limited-release ArchiTect last year and, more recently, its ArchiTect Futurist, both with a 3D-printed midsole.

    Photo credit: The Adidas 3D Runner photographed by @mervinkaye

  • ODD guitar

    Musical instruments

    While there are some simple DIY instrument designs available on Thingiverse and other such sites to print, there are a few pioneers revolutionizing the craft of making musical instruments. NYC-based architecture firm Monad Studio garnered attention for its artistic approach to 3D printing a two-string piezoelectric violin, one-string electric travel bass guitar, a one-string piezoelectric monovioloncello, and didgeridoos of various sizes. Perhaps the expert in this nascent field, however, is design engineer and 3D-printing enthusiast Olaf Diegel. Using selective laser sintering, Diegel crafts intricate and customizable electric guitars 3D-printed from nylon powder and featuring a wooden inner core. Although his company ODD Guitars specializes in unique, personalized guitars, he has also experimented with 3D printing other instruments, such as a keyboard, drum kit and saxophone.

    Photo Credit: Olaf Diegel, ODD Guitars

  • Self-replicating machines

    The RepRap Project is an open-source community focused on developing and sharing designs for self-replicating manufacturing machines. Invented by English engineer and mathematician Adrian Bowyer in 2004, the original RepRap—short for Replicating Rapid Prototyper—was designed as a free, low-cost desktop 3D printer capable of producing kits containing parts to make another RepRap. From there, the community blossomed to include designs for an array of other self-replicating 3D printers as well as milling/router machines and robotic arms. The organization claims that the most recent RepRap is capable of making 70% of its parts, not including nuts and bolts.

    Photo Credit: The RepRap Project

  • Food

    The field of 3D-printed food is an increasingly appetizing market. NASA has been researching a 3D-printed food system for astronauts while other innovators are exploring the potential benefits of customizing nutrition, particularly for such populations as soldiers and the elderly. Currently, however, 3D-printed food is primarily more of a novelty, allowing for the creation of imaginative confectionary products artfully presented in complex geometric shapes impossible to produce by hand. Other 3D-printed food includes pizza, ice cream, pancakes and various pastries.

    Photo Credit: PancakeBot

  • Wake Forest

    Organs and tissue

    Some of the most exciting applications of 3D printing have been in healthcare. Beyond the promise of implant customization, 3D printing is spurring potentially life-changing breakthroughs in the field of regenerative medicine by enabling bioprinting of tissue and even organs. Pioneering CA-based company Organovo, for example, is inching ever closer to building 3D-printed living human tissues and functional organs—such as livers and kidneys—for in vitro and therapeutic applications. Academic research labs at Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute, among others, are similarly poised to revolutionize healthcare. An interdisciplinary team at Wake Forest was the first to engineer laboratory-grown organs that were successfully implanted in humans, while Wyss researchers developed the first 3D-printed organ-on-a-chip—a heart.

    Photo Credit: Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine

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