David Seidman
David Seidman

3D Printing Is Going Everywhere

Houses, food, body parts: 3D printing will make all of them and more.

If you think of 3D printing – also known as additive manufacturing – you may imagine that it’s like a talented teenager: A lot of potential, but not ready to make much impact on entire industries. But this teenager is growing fast, in ways that may hit your industry soon. A few examples:



3D printers create FDA-approved drugs and vaccine patches that deliver medications without a shot. But perhaps the most exciting job for 3D printers is creating body parts.

“Previously if you needed a hip replacement, the doctor was only able to choose from small, medium or large sizes, but now we are able to create more exact sized replacements that are personalized for patients,” says bone-tissue engineer Mia Woodruff of Australia’s Queensland University of Technology. Meanwhile, the medical-technology company Cellink has been 3D-printing cartilage, and scientists at the Israel Institute of Technology have used 3D printing to form blood vessels.



“The armed forces – from the US to Australia – have recognized additive manufacturing’s potential for decades and have already put 3D printers to use in the field,” says the news site All3DP. “From frontline replacement parts to quick-build bunkers, the military relies on 3D printing.”

According to the Defense Strategies Institute, which runs educational training summits, “[Federal] 2022 defense funding has allocated $25.5 million in research and development funding for large-scale additive manufacturing development, additive manufacturing training programs, and additive manufacturing supply chain development. Additionally, revenues from 3D printing for space and defense aerospace are expected to reach $600 million by 2022.”



Columbia University’s Creative Machines Labs have built a device that not only 3D prints chicken-breast cutlets but also uses lasers to cook them. The scientists “had two blind taste-testers sample laser-cooked and range-cooked printed chicken, and they both seemed to prefer the laser-cooked sample due to the fact that it remained more moist and the texture throughout was more uniform.”

3D-printed foods aren’t confined to the lab. “The $485.5 million industry of 3D printing food is projected to reach $1 billion globally by 2025,” says the 3D printing news site All3DP. The Israeli firm Redefine Meat can print 22 pounds of plant-based faux beef per hour, and Spanish startup Novameat is 3D-printing vegetarian “steaks” that it plans to take to the mass market in 2022.


Housing and construction

“Homebuilding giant Lennar and Texas construction startup Icon are teaming up to build 100 3D-printed homes” near Austin, according to news reports. “The two- to four-bedroom homes are now on the market, starting in the $400,000 range.”

In the southern California desert town of Rancho Mirage, the construction firm Mighty Buildings is erecting a community of 15 homes, all made with 3D-printed materials. Another firm, CyBe Construction, is building 3D-printed houses on the Caribbean island of Curaçao. And Icon, the company building the Austin houses, is creating a similar community in southeast Mexico.



Porsche, BMW, Cadillac, and Ford are only a few of the automakers that use printed components in their cars. In the motorcycle world, Honda is working with Italian 3D printer manufacturer WASP to create prototypes of new bikes.

Even spacecraft are getting printed. The aerospace firm Relativity Space has been building Terran 1, the first completely 3D-printed rocket to reach low Earth orbit. “[Relativity’s] customer waitlist is filled with big names in aerospace and telecommunications, including NASA [and] the Defense Department,” says the Los Angeles Business Journal. “A dedicated launch on a Relativity rocket will cost customers $12 million each.”

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