Additive manufacturing and 3D printing are usually mentioned together in the same breath. It’s only in its infancy, but it’s already disrupting a range of industries and the benefits are only limited by our own imagination. From as early as 2014, Lockheed Martin and Honeywell were already incorporating additively manufactured components into their designs. In 2016, General Electric placed a $1.4 billion order for a pair of 3D printing companies, marking one of the most significant endorsements of the technology. We may all be able to take a fully 3D-printed plane one day.
Besides aerospace, the healthcare industry and consumers in general are aggressively driving the market for additive manufacturing. From 3D printing organs for doctors to practice surgery on, to bench-top 3D printers that consumers can take home to have a go, 3D printing is slowly but surely seeping into our lives.
Additive manufacturing has brought the healthcare industry to new heights. Perhaps the coming together of artificial intelligence (AI) and 3D printing is most clearly life-changing in this industry. A British man has successfully been fitted with a 3D printed titanium sternum and a motorcycle victim in Hong Kong received a 3D printed ankle bone. Even skin and organs can be additively manufactured. Currently, Nanyang Technological University is working with a Singaporean 3D printing start up focused on healthcare to develop tissue implants customized for patients. It has disrupted the industry by changing the process of a patient’s recovery process. Instead of creating a standard mould for a body part and hope that the patient’s body does not reject it, the body part is now used to create the mould. 3D printing greatly reduces the chances of the patient’s body rejecting the mould because 3D printing allows for customisation and detailed accuracy. The use of AI helps with accuracy in the printing process, increasing success rates and saving time.
3D printing satisfies the consumer need to have everything on demand, and customized. Instead of ordering pizza delivery, you can now print it in your living room. Oreo previously launched a campaign that allowed consumers to customize the flavor and colour of the oreo cream for printing. The use of 3D printing in these industries truly showcase the pervasiveness of technology. Its initial uses might have been for manufacturing but that didn’t stop it from being creative. To illustrate, Mink is a 3D printer that can print make-up. It can take any image and instantly transform it into a wearable colour cosmetic. 3D-printed clothing might be exclusive to high-end retailers, in has the potential to trickle down to the masses via home printers. These are just some examples of how 3D printing has the potential to invade your life and mine.
What does additive manufacturing mean for our future?
Looking ahead, how will additive manufacturing affect us individually? 3D printers as low as $99 USD are available in the market, making it possible for you and me to own one in our homes. We might one day all own a 3D printer and wonder how we used to live without this device.
Additionally, VR might be all the rage in brand campaigns right now, but 3D printers might be the next hot tool that brands employ. However, as with all new and swanky fads, it’s never about the technology but about storytelling. No matter the medium, storytelling should be at the core to create a connection with your audience.