3D printing has featured in the press recently and it is a very exciting subject. The Economist featured an article about how 3D printing from digital designs will transform manufacturing. It is incredible how such intricate products as medical implants are now being 3D printed instead of being cut out of a block of metal allowing products to be ‘additive’ instead of ‘subtractive’. This reduces the amount of waste material created and because economies of scale are now eliminated, costs and risk are lowered. There is no longer the need to produce hundreds of thousands of items to recover fixed costs.
A friend and industrial designer in California has a business designing ‘kick ass prosthetics‘ where he uses 3D printing to create limbs and braces for people with medical conditions. He designs products it has not been possible to make previously . It means that someone who has lost a leg can now have a prosthetic leg which is a mirror image of his other leg – the leg can then be customised and made to look ‘kick ass’.
Scott has recently been featured in a number of newspapers and gave a really interesting lecture on the subject, titled The Future of 3D Printing.
He discusses the complex shapes that can be produced and what it means for the future of medical applications.
I love his comment about the scene from the film Fight Club when Ed Norton wakes up and looks around and realises that his life is a concoction of crap he’s bought from IKEA and that it is the same as what everyone else has causing him to have a social crisis and blow up Los Angeles. Life can be different – we are able to expand the boundaries of 3D printing and use it on a small scale production. Relating back to my point about ‘additive’ material production, 3D printing is also a very efficient way of working.
From what I have seen so far on the subject, this method of manufacturing not only has less impact on the environment than ‘subtractive’ manufacturing, but it is transforming the prosthetic limb industry and creating a change in the way we design medical applications!
I’m looking forward to seeing what is next in the world for 3D printing.