Most parts of the world today have become digitized. From e-commerce and online banking to social media sites and YuTube, people have become more and more reliant on their computers for performing every-day tasks. Not so many years ago, the idea of a 3D printer that was able to transform a digital file into a 3D functional object seemed like the stuff of medical dramas and sci-fi novels. Today, 3D printing is becoming an increasing trend as the boundaries of design and building are being pushed and remapped. Also known as ‘additive manufacturing’, the process of 3D printing involves the creation of a 3-dimensional solid item from a digital file. When it comes to 3D printer objects, the sky seems to be the limit as more and more interesting and functional items are being created via 3D printers every day. Exploring some of the most interesting created created with a 3D printer takes us down the rabbit hole of future technology.
1) Strati: The World’s first 3D Printed Car
Based out of Phoenix, Arizona, Local Motors plans to turn the automobile industry upside down with the application of the 3D printing process to create customized functional vehicles. The world’s first 3D printed car was based on a design that was the winner of a design competition. The 2014 International Manufacturing Technology show in Chicago saw the first printed vehicle, and it more than impressed the media, to say the least. Local Motors already has plans in the works to print another car, and the goal is for their next car to be road-ready. Their long-term plans include opening up a possible 50 microfactories around the world; these companies will be able to 3D print vehicles like the Strati that are 100-percent functional and road-ready. Printed in 44 hours from a durable ABS/carbon fiber composite material, the first 3D printed car has caused waves for the future of the automobile industry.
2) The Ear of Vincent Van Gogh
A process called ‘bioprinting’ has come into the limelight over the last couple of decades as a revolutionary medical concept with numerous possibilities. The printing of human tissues promises great change for the future of medicine regarding regrowing failing organs, curing ailments, and growing replacement body parts. What initially seemed like the stuff of unrealistic medical dramas has become a reality, and the printing of Vincent Van Gogh’s ear from loving tissue proves just that. One of the most famous artists of all time, Vincent Van Gogh became as famous for cutting off his own ear as he did for his expressionist paintings. Most impressive about this is the fact that the ear was printed from living tissue of a relative of Van Gogh’s. As the ear was made from living tissue, it is technically alive and can actually hear.
3) Concrete Castle
Imagine having a full-sized concrete castle in your own backyard? For Andrey Rudenko, he doesn’t have to imagine it; it’s a reality. Rudenko used a large-scale 3D printer he built himself to construct his backyard castle made of concrete. Rudenko’s ultimate goal is to 3D print a home. Whether Rudenko will build and choose this home for himself, he is an interesting person to follow as his 3D-printing genius will likely push the boundaries of construction for years to come. Being able to build his own 3D printers and the finished objects makes Rudenko a person to watch.
4) 3D-Printed Office Building
Although this building was printed in sections, it is still considered a 3D-printed building. China-based company WinSun designed and constructed a 6-story office building that represents their future goals of expanding their 3D building plans to include homes and other buildings. The office building is not only impressive to look at, but features informed walls, is fully functional and earthquake-safe. WinSun seemed to emerge on the scene dramatically with the printing of this office building and have big plans for the future. Using approximately 60-percent less construction materials that with normal building methods, the 3D printing method could be the answer for saving precious resources in the future. The cost-saving effect of using less material is not only good for the bottom line, but also for the environment, and for builders who can put more time and energy into the design process.
5) Tiny Tools
Created by Lance Abernathy, two 3D-printed functioning miniature tools were created: a saw and a drill. Originally, Abernathy’s printing of a working version of a drill garnered such praise that he was inspired to also create a working circular saw. While these tools don’t have a huge range of applications due to their size, it is still an impressive accomplishment that could influence the future of the power-tool industry. As a culture, we’ve been fascinated by the ability to create things in miniature for donkey’s years, but being able to create miniatures of power tools, things that can actually function, is a step beyond our cultural fascination with the world of teeny-tiny.
6) 3-D Printed Lawnmower
South African Engineer, Hans Fouche, 3D printed the world’s first working lawnmower. Fouche used a large-scale 3D printer that was a garage project entitled ‘the Cheetah’. After printing other objects such as a vacuum cleaner and furniture, he turned his attention to a ABS lawnmower, and it took only nine hours to print. Perhaps the landscaping industry will be yet but another niche where 3D-printed objects can find a market.
7) First Object to be 3D Printed in Space
Since 3D printing seems like something out of a sci-fi novel, why not take 3D printing to space? NASA and an American company, Made in Space, sent a rocket into space containing a 3D printer. The first 3D print from space was a faceplate of the printer itself, but since then, NASA has gone on to 3D print numerous objects in space, one of which was a wrench that was e-mailed from earth. When it comes to 3D printing objects in space, what could be more out of this world than that?
8) 3D-Printed Gun: The Liberator
While certainly one of the most controversial items to be 3D printed, Cody Wilson’s Liberator handgun is still an impressive 3D-printing accomplishment. Made in partnership with his company, Defense Distributed, before being forced by the government to remove the online plans, files were shared, launching a lawsuit between Wilson and the company and the State department. This 3D-printed item certainly initiates conversations regarding ethics and the 3D-printing world, a conversation that is likely to grow and continue as the industry evolves into the future.
9) 3D-Printed Unborn Babies
The Company, Embryo 3D, has responded to the wishes of parents to hold their unborn children, or at least as close to that as they can get. With prenatal images, Embryo 3D was also to create 3D sculptures of people’s unborn children. The company uses full scans taken by medical professionals, and they use those scans to produce high-quality and anatomically-correct 3D prints constructed from heavy-duty plaster and plastic. For an additional cost, clients can also have their future children cast in metal for an even more durable keepsake. The company’s founder, Ivin Griffin, formed the idea after hearing of parents’ desire to convert their child’s scans into something tangible. This could also have a place in the world of grieving in cases of miscarriage and infant deaths where parents can have a legitimate and tangible representation of their lost child.
10) The First 3D Food-Printing Restaurant
Well, what’s left in terms of super cool 3D-printed items? Food, of course. The pop-up London restaurant, Food Ink, opened back in 2016 for a mere three days, but that opening will go down in history. Food Ink holds the title of the world’s first 3D food-printing establishment. Using printers supplied by a Dutch company called byFlow, Food Ink created a number of dishes made from 3D-printed ingredients like hummus, peas, chocolate, cheese, and dough. They further ran with the theme by ensuring that all the utensils, furniture and decor accessories inside the pop-up restaurant were also made from 3D printing. Food Ink provided their customers with a one-of-a-kind culinary experience. Marrying the dining experience with future technology allows people to literally and figuratively taste a possible future for the restaurant industry.
Have you enjoyed this list of the top 10 most interesting things to be 3D printed? From medical marvels to construction feats, usable tools, and even food, 3D printing seems to be a wave of the future capable of revolutionizing a number of industries. In terms of the evolution of technology, taking place over the last 30 years, 3D printing is a relatively new development. As such, it is fascinating how quickly it has developed and just how many items have already been successfully 3D printed. From the health-care industry to the restaurant industry, and many in between, 3D printing seems to have a niche in a number of marketplaces. 3D printing: is is really that surprising? For many, it still represents the extremes of technological advancement, while others see it as a logical step along the chain of evolutionary technology.
Charles Stephenson received a Masters Degree in Engineering from MIT University. Charles has been working in the Industrial 3D Printing industry for over 5 years. Charles regularly contributes content to several 3D Printing websites including Pirate3D.com.