The sky’s the limit when it comes to 3D printing applications today. People all over the world in all industries benefit from 3D printed parts and consumer goods. Some of the industries using 3D printing are discussed below.
The aerospace industry primarily uses 3D metal printing to build organic designs using lighter alloys that provide strength and durability. Current applications include concept models and prototypes, complex aerospace parts, replacement parts, and specialized parts for space exploration.
Additive manufacturing uses the following technologies – polymer powder bed fusion, thermoplastic filament extrusion systems, metal powder bed fusion and directed energy deposition systems combined with high-performance materials to build advanced parts for general and commercial aviation.
Rocket Lab has successfully 3D printed 100 Rutherford engines, the world’s first 3D printed, electric turbo-pump-fed engine (see image below -left). NASA is also increasing its research to examine new and better ways to build and power aircraft in the future through its University Leadership Initiative. SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft with 3D printed SuperDraco engine is now officially flying.
Architectural models are ideal for communicating and collaborating with builders, home owners, investors and community leaders. These highly-detailed models are used in the planning, fundraising, design, construction, marketing and sales process of homes and offices, hotels and retail spaces, government and medical buildings, and many more.
3D printed art uses all materials and all 3D printing technologies to create stunning and elegant pieces of art to display in homes, offices, parks, and galleries worldwide. From the installation "Concrete Choreography" (3D printed concrete columns) to intricate light fixtures and wall art to sculptures and interactive lighting displays, 3D printing is enabling the creation of many beautiful works of 3D art.
3D printing for the automotive industry is not just for prototypes. It’s being used to build car parts for many makes and models allowing cost and time reduction benefits for manufacturers. Parts like brake calipers to small motor brackets with integrated water cooling for the Bugatti Chiron supercar, (a subsidiary of Volkswagen); the Divergent Blade, a two-seat supercar - that boasts 720 hp and is super lightweight; and research and development of new parts for every major automotive manufacturer.
The U.S. Army has been using additive manufacturing for the last twenty years to refurbish worn parts and create custom tools. Going forward, they’re working with 3D Systems to create state-of-the-art 3D printers that will provide large scale precision parts and enable more efficient production of long-term durable parts all while reducing material usage. Some of the top 3D printers used for the automotive industry are the DMP Factory 500, the DMP Factory 350 and the DMP Flex 350.
The machines used to 3D print transparent braces are generally the size of a microwave oven and start out at $400 to more than $500,000. They extrude layer upon layer of plastics or other materials, including metal, to create 3-D objects with moving parts. Sales are booming and five million patients have gotten these clear aligners over the past 20 years. Invisalign, a San Jose company, uses 3-D printing to make each mouthful of customized, transparent braces.
The cost of these clear aligners is between $3,000 and $8,000 each. Total sales for the company in 2017 were $1.47 billion and until now there hasn’t been much competition.
With patents recently expired, other companies like 3M are also interested in manufacturing clear aligners once its clinical trials are completed in 2019. SmileDirectClub is another new-comer to the industry and in their startup campaign raised $60 million.
Recently, RegenHU (a Swiss company which stands for regeneration human) has spun off a company called Vivos Dental which will market their dental bone product called OsteoFlux®. It is a 3D printed synthetic, osteoconductive biomaterial made of calcium phosphates chemically comparable to human bone. It provides a stable scaffold that supports the overlying soft tissues and is a template for osteoconduction for large bone augmentation.
Advances in modern technology provide many applications for 3D printing technology to benefit the healthcare industry. These include hearing aids, medical models, implants, prostheses, dental aligners, orthotics, splints, casts and braces. One of the biggest benefits is that each model is customized to the precise anatomy and needs of one person - "Patient-Specific" healthcare.
3D printing has shortened the hearing aid manufacturing process from more than a week making one at a time by hand to three simple steps: scanning, modeling and printing. Hearing aids are made layer by layer of light-curing acrylic resin. Hundreds of thousands of custom-made products are manufactured every year. The audiologist scans the patient’s ear using a 3D scanner and lasers to create an ear impression. Most scanners create about 100,000 to 150,000 points of reference using digital cameras. The scan is then sent to the modeler who shapes the impression by applying templates and geometric shapes to the impression. Once that’s complete, the model is sent to the 3D printer and is built using resin and then fitted with the necessary electronics and acoustic vents. Each hearing aid is fine-tuned to the level of hearing loss of the patient.
Most hearing aids are made using stereolithography (SLA) printers but there is a small percentage that requires hands-on manufacturing due to medical reasons. 3D printers like EnvisionTEC can print 65 hearing aid shells or 47 hearing aid molds in 60-90 minutes.
Cosmetic Surgery Models
3D printed cosmetic surgery models allow patients to see what they will look like once the cosmetic surgery is complete. The benefits of these models include assisting the doctors with marketing and branding, facilitating conversations with patients to understand what they’re thinking, designing a patient-specific plan and enabling better execution of patient-specific plans during surgery. Carrie S. Stern founded MirorMe3D to bring 3D printing to cosmetic surgery. They offer products to surgeons and patients including full face, facial subunit (i.e. nose) and breast models. Baseline units are used in the consultation to educate patients on the goals and expectations of surgery and as a reference for intraoperative guidance.
These models are created by creating a 3D scan of the face and then editing it with a 3D editing program to modify the scan to create an image of what the patient’s appearance would be after surgery. Then the image is sent to a ProJet CJP 660Pro and printed in color using color jet printing technology. After the excess powder is vacuumed off, the mask is thoroughly cleaned and fixed in a solution bath.
Braces, Splints and Casts
With today’s 3D printing technology, braces can be custom-built for patients and provide more stability for injured limbs, neck and back injuries and support the spine for those with scoliosis. WhiteClouds was commissioned to build a brace flexible enough for Thomas Davis, a linebacker for the Carolina Panthers, to wear during Super Bowl 50 that would protect his broken arm and prevent further injury. This brace is made from plastic and rubber materials, with a spongey interior to absorb shock and it’s super lightweight.
Patient-specific splints, casts and orthotics can also be built with this technology. 3D printed exoskeletal casts provide the support needed to allow broken bones to heal properly. They're lightweight, recyclable, ventilated and you can even get them wet.
3D printing is changing the face of medicine with innovative custom-fit 3D-printed prosthetics. Amputations occur multiple times per day and are life-altering. By having access to 3D printed prosthetics, amputees benefit in many ways. This innovative technology is more affordable than traditional prosthetics. The expense is generally out of pocket rather than covered by insurance and costs between $1,000 and $8,000. Whereas, inexpensive versions can be built for less than $100.
Using 3D printing to build custom-fit prosthetics to keep up with the rapid growth of children, makes it less taxing on a family’s budget. Amputees have more mobility and can resume most of their regular activities in a short amount of time. 3D printed prosthetics are not only functional, they’re beautiful and can be designed to express the patient’s character.
This technology isn’t just for humans. 3D printed prosthetic limbs benefit animals of all shapes and sizes. Penguins, ducks, eagles, horses, cats, dogs, chickens, and pigs just to name a few are able to survive and thrive with comfortable, custom-fit limbs and beaks.
Implants and prostheses and associated molds/castings can be 3D printed in shapes and sizes through translation of patient-specific MRI and CT scans. There are made-to-order jigs and fixtures that are used with 3D printed implants. The speed of implant production can be produced very quickly and custom implants can have positive impact in terms of time required for surgery and patient recovery time. Each implant is biocompatible.
Medical models are unique to the patient. They're created with extreme detail captured from individual MRI and CT scans to provide a hands-on perspective in patient treatment and care. These models are 3D printed with full-color segmentation which facilitates successful patient education, medical staff training and surgical planning for physicians. The main challenge is who’s going to pay for the medical models needed.
The main challenge with medical models is until insurance reimbursement becomes common, the question of who's going to pay for the medical models needed remains an issue.
Surgical Guides and Surgical Kits
Surgical guides give physicians the tools necessary to prepare for a successful surgery. These 3D printed guides enable pre-surgical planning giving physicians the opportunity to study them in advance to meet the patient's exact needs. Surgical guides enable doctors to be more precise and reduce the risk of unnecessary incisions making the surgery less invasive. Most guides are printed using SLA and FDM technologies.
Conformis has developed iJig Patient-Specific Instrumentation that is used to create patient-conforming implants for knee replacement surgery. Using this method, this greatly reduces improper rotation risk problems caused by an improperly fitted implant, subluxation, dislocation and prosthesis failure. Surgical kits include 3D printed tools built with selective laser sintering (SLS) technology. However, some tools are only single-use instruments. 3D Printed wax molds are used to cast the patient-specific implants.
Just think of the possibilities of having the option to get medicine that's tailored to what your body needs to heal. This personalized approach to creating precise dosage forms in various sizes and shapes can now be accomplished through 3D printing. These complex drug-release profiles are dosage forms that can be fabricated in intricate geometries surrounded by barrier layers that modulate release and facilitate implantable drug delivery devices with novel drug-release profiles. Some of the possible shapes of these pills are shown below.
3D printing offers the ability to create limitless dosage forms. This new technology may benefit patients who have a pharmacogenetic polymorphism (how an individual's genetic makeup affects his or her response to drugs). The advantages to this approach include personalized medication therapy, complex drug release profiles, precise control of droplet size. SPRITAM® (levetiracetam), the first FDA-approved medicine using this technology is now available. It's used in the treatment of partial onset seizures, myoclonic seizures and primary generalized tonic-clonic seizures. This patient-friendly tablet disintegrates in the mouth with a small sip of water.
Dioramas captivate audiences of all ages. We see these models in museums, universities, trade shows and theme parks. Combined with state-of-the art technology, these detailed models bring history to life and provide valuable educational experiences. They're also used in creating props for your favorite movies and video games; which makes for an out of this world fan experience. Our BYU campus-wide diorama showcases some of what's possible.
Theme models are life-like creatures and surroundings that create the magical atmosphere you find in museums, theme parks and attractions. These can be life-like dinosaurs, murals of an ancient city, a scale model of Hogwarts, and recreations of artifacts destroyed by war.
3D printing is used throughout the entertainment industry to build props and costume accessories in some of our favorite movies. This manufacturing technique allows filmmakers to get highly detailed props quicker than traditional methods. From movies with a prehistoric theme to ones with advanced technology, we see the possibilities of what 3D printing can do. What do you think of when someone says Jurassic Park? Dinosaurs, right? Large and in charge dinosaurs! It's really cool when you think of how realistic the dinosaur skeletons of all shapes and sizes look in Jurassic Park. The animatronics team for this movie even 3D printed a full-scale T. Rex in sections. The technology is so detailed, you can see every scale on the dinosaur’s skin.
The intricate detail in the costume accessories worn by Queen Ramonda in the Black Panther were 3D printed. The stunning pieces worn by her were designed in CAD software and laser sintered (a 3D printing process using lasers to melt various types of powders to create an object).
Another movie that used 3D printing for props and costuming was Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The hilt of Kylo Ren’s lightsaber, large portions of Captain Phasma’s Stormtrooper armor, her helmet and the stormtrooper helmets, Rey’s staff and each intricate piece of C3PO’s costume were 3D printed.
3D character models, 3D cartoon models and movie props are some of the coolest sculptures that combine 3D printing with foam sculpting and cutting. Seeing larger-than-life models of our favorite movie, cartoon and video game characters like Thor, Captain America, Spiderman, Bugs Bunny, Sponge Bob, SheRa, Master Chief, Commander Shepherd and Lara Croft is just plain awesome. They're used in movies, displays and exhibits, at fan conventions and trade shows.
Trade show models bring new product technologies to life. These models incorporate interactive features, moving parts and advanced lighting to attract attention of everyone attending. There are scaled models, unique customized models and interactive models that allow attendees the opportunity for a photo shoot.
Food is new to the 3D arena. Edibles like chocolate, sugar, pasta and vegetables are being 3D printed all over the globe. NASA is using this technology to give more options for astronauts and longer space exploration missions. Consumers have the opportunity to choose the ingredients they use to 3D print their food. The uses for this technology could benefit hospitals, picky eaters, those with special dietary and caloric needs and some say it may prevent excess waste. After food is printed, it still needs to be cooked.
3D printed food restaurants are opening up all over the world. 3D printed food makes for a cool display, but for some it doesn’t tempt the palette – unless its chocolate. Some of the most popular food 3D printers are the ChefJet from 3D Systems, Foodini from Natural Machines, the NASA Food Printer from SMRC, Choc Creator from Choc Edge and the Discov3ry Extruder by Structur3D which is actually an add-on attachment for your current FDM printer.
While 3D printed footwear prototypes play an important part in the development of new products, 3D printed wearable footwear has been in the forefront of athletic shoe development. Since early 2013, leading brands like Adidas, Nike, New Balance and Under Armor have developed high performance cleats and athletic shoes for athletes in every sport. Some of them are one of a kind and others are available in limited editions. Using SLS technology and CLIP-Carbon manufacturers are 3D printing spike plates, cleat plates, base plates, heel midsoles, and midsoles. 3D printed footwear has a price tag between $300 and $450.
Companies like ME3D and Dr. Scholl’s are creating custom-fit shoe insoles and orthotics. Some of the new innovations in this area of 3D printing include apps that capture the unique contours of your feet by mapping hundreds of points on your arch and heel using advanced scanning technology to produce insoles uniquely yours. Benefits include: support for many foot issues like plantar fasciitis, reduces muscles fatigue and can also help with knee or pack pain.
3D printing in the fashion industry has many applications. Designers all over the world have made 3D printing an integral part of their process. Israeli designer Danit Peleg designed the dress worn by Paralympic snowboarder, Amy Purdy, for the Paralympic Opening Ceremony. It was printed using FilaFlex, a flexible filament, which enabled her to perform various dance moves. She has also designed dresses, tops, skirts and even a bomber jacket which you can add one to your wardrobe for a sum of $1,500. These delicate garments need to be hand washed and laid flat in the shade to dry.
Iris Van Herpen is another innovator. She’s putting PolyJet technology to use to create accessories to wear on her designs out of high-quality resin. Using this same technique, she put tulle into a 3D printer to print directly on the fabric, which was exceptionally soft. Knowing what the possibilities are with each process and material enables more creativity. Some of the designs are futuristic and others more modern.
Metal binder jetting is also used to create accessories. This cost-effective process prints stainless steel and uses only the material needed to print the object. Glasses, umbrellas, metal pieces for leatherwork, and costume jewelry are some of the accessories 3D printed from this technology. Custom eyewear is also part of the 3D printed fashion trend. Frames come in all colors, shapes and sizes.
3D printed homes are being printed all over the world. They can be strong, simple designs 3D printed out of cement. Small one bedroom, one bath homes can be 3D printed in 24 hours and are being built in developing countries to provide safe places for people to live. They can be innovative and made out of biodegradable materials like soil, chopped rice straws and husks. However, these homes will biodegrade if not maintained. 3D printed homes like the cool one below are in the works to be built in New York City. There are larger scale offices popping up all over like the world’s first 3D printed office in Dubai, a 4300-square-foot villa in Beijing – built to withstand 8.0 magnitude earthquakes and a five-story apartment building in China.
Industrial models are commonly used for trade shows. It's much easier to fit a scale model of your project in a display booth than the full-size one. Industrial models have cutaway views, take-apart and interactive features, moving parts and advanced lighting features that create opportunities for communication, collaboration and vision to take place.
3D printing in the jewelry industry uses two technologies. Selective Laser Melting (SLM) which uses powdered metals that are melted with lasers layer by layer until the end-product is complete. An example of the fine detail that can be achieved with this technology is Dutch Watchmaker Michiel Holthinrichs.
And stereolithography (SLA) to build the highly-detailed wax models and not the actual end-pieces of jewelry. The 3D printed model is used to create a mold and then after it’s hardened, is melted so the metal can be poured in its place to create stunning necklaces, rings, bracelets, cufflinks, tie clips, broaches, charms and earrings. 3D printed jewelry is available in a variety of metals including silver, brass, steel, titanium, copper and bronze. 3D printers for jewelry making include Peopoly Moai, Formlabs Form 2, EnvisionTEC Vida CDLM, and Solidscape’s S300 Series. These printers start out at just under $2,000.