Forgot your password?

Technologies of the future: 3D printing

Friday, April 2, 2021

We keep going with our “Technologies of the Future” series, and in today’s review we take a look at the 3D printing — oven technology, which has recently been admired and has already found application in many industries — from household use to medicine and construction.

Startup Jedi

We talk to startups and investors, you get the value.


General trends in technology development

The first prosthetic arm was created for Gottfried von Berlichingen, who lived in Germany in the 15th and 16th centuries and lost his right arm during one of the battles. Medieval masters made an iron hand for him, which not only allowed him to look like an ordinary person, but also to hold a sword in it. Today, this hand is in the Hornberg Museum as a reminder of where the “bionic” prostheses began.

Over the past few years, 3D printing in the medical industry has moved from the category of science fiction to practical applications: the very first and easiest use is in the manufacture of implants. The main benefit of such implants is the ideal size, which is suitable for a particular patient — because before it is made, a 3D scan and a model of the necessary organ are made. The fabric is created on a 3D printer using the same technology as in conventional printing, but different types of cells are used instead of plastic. For example, to create a prototype of the liver, three types of cells are used: hepatocytes, stellate cells and epithelial cells.

In the United States, there is already a patient who has a part of the skull printed: a successful operation was performed in the state of Connecticut. At the same time, the speed with which the 3D implant was made is amazing: only 2 weeks passed from the day of the 3D scanning to the operation. Princeton University has already printed whole organs, such as the bionic ear, which not only looks like a real ear, but also contains a soundwave-sensitive antenna and living cells.

With the help of 3D printing technology, temporary crowns are made for dentistry, parts of the liver for transplantation, and so on. Perhaps one of the most significant aspects of using 3D printing technology is the production of individual prostheses that not only perfectly repeat the shape and anatomical features of a particular person, but also contain microscopic holes to increase their strength.

Today, several models of artificial hands and feet have been created and printed with fairly high functionality that allows you to use even small objects. These models slightly differ from each other, but what unites them is the high price, which makes them unaffordable for most people with disabilities. However, enthusiasts are already developing models using cheaper materials that can be made at home using 3D printers.

For example, at the age of 14, a schoolboy from Colorado, Easton LaChapelle, created his first robotic arm prosthesis at home, and eight years later he founded the company Unlimited Tomorrow, which focused on the production of modern technological prostheses. Such robotic prostheses, perfectly matched to human needs, could be created using a 3D printer at a cost far below those on the market today. So the story of Baron von Berlichtingen’s iron hand continues through half a thousand years.


Impact on society, economy, and the state

First, prosthetics as such allows you to keep people with disabilities as an active part of society — this is the basis of inclusion, which is of particular significance in our modern society. And 3D printing allows you to considerably expand the boundaries of both prosthetics and transplants for people who need it, but it is far from limited to these possibilities.

Already now, Aimee Mullins, who is perhaps the world’s most renowned athlete and model, is using prosthetic legs to change her height and form her own identity. In addition to her, you can remember Victoria Modesta, a British singer and fashion model with an amputated left leg below the knee, who turns her own prosthesis into part of her image.

It has become possible to print prosthetic upper limbs on a 3D printer for victims of military conflicts — in particular, for refugees from Syria. The cost of such prostheses does not exceed $20 at the usual price of several hundred. In addition, printed prostheses are lighter than traditional ones, which is also essential.

In addition to prosthetics of limbs, which is already being done more or less massively with the help of 3D printing, another direction of its development has also appeared: for example, printing cells for transplantation into the pancreas. The first bioprinter for such printing has already been transferred to the Adelaide Clinic (Australia) and is being used to treat patients with diabetes.

Also today, the middle ear can be 3D-printed and the hearing can be restored to a person — relevant and successful research has been carried out at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. With the help of 3D printing technology, it is possible to achieve submillimetre level accuracy, allowing for operations that are successful in 1 in 1 300 cases using conventional technology.

And, finally, 3D printing technology in the near future will make it possible to successfully fight infertility — at least this is evidenced by the first experiments on mice that were printed with an artificial ovary, which allowed to restore reproductive function. It is worth noting that scientists did not create the entire completely, but only its basis, since the entire ovary is still too complex in its structure to reproduce.

According to the famous American inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, mass medical 3D printing technology will become mass-produced only after 2030. And in 15 years, there may be a technology that will allow you to create new organs for a person inside the body.



General trends in technology development

The development of 3D printing technology could not leave aside such an industry as construction. Over the past few years, several 3D printer projects have been presented that can print houses from a variety of materials.

The organization WASP (World’s Advanced Saving Project) presented a 12-meter-high 3D printer Big Delta, designed for the construction of cheap housing using local materials.

In Amsterdam, in 2017, 3D Print Canal House was realized, a three-year project in which an international team of partners from various sectors worked together to 3D-print a full-size house printed on a large mobile 3D printer Kamermaker, designed by architects. The project aims to revolutionize the construction industry and offer new customized housing solutions around the world.

In Minnesota, StroyBot was created — a 3D printer for printing houses from cement mortar, the inventor of which is a Ukrainian Andrey Rudenko. He was the first to print the first 3D hotel room for the Lewis Grand Hotel in the Philippines back in December 2015.

The Chinese company Zhou Da in 2015 created a 3D villa of six 3D models weighing about 100 kilograms each in just three hours (however, it is worth noting that the printing of the finished elements took longer). A meaningful fact is that materials obtained from industrial and agricultural waste were used for the production of this villa. The printed house can stand an earthquake of up to 9 points and is not scared of water or fire.

Another Chinese company, Winsun, has printed a standard 5-sto house and a luxury villa of 1,100 square meters to demonstrate its own capabilities. The main advantage of building in this way is the considerable savings in building materials, which can be 30–60% due to the use of recycled secondary materials, and the cost of 1 100-meter villa is only $161,000.

Another Chinese company, Winsun, has printed a standard 5-storey house and a luxury villa of 1 100 square meters to demonstrate its own capabilities. The main advantage of building in this way is the significant savings in building materials, which can be 30–60% due to the use of recycled materials, and the cost of a 1 100 metres villa is only $161 000.

In Russia, the company Spetsavia from Yaroslavl is using its own model S-1160 3D printer to print building elements using standard grade 500 cement, which is available for sale at any building materials shop. The working surface of the 3D construction printer is 10x11x2.7 meters.

The American architecture firm WATG offers Curve Appeal design and Branch Technology for building with 3D printing technology. At the same time, WATG uses the experience of the Case Study Houses program (1945–1966), which studied light and cheap technologies for construction in the post-war years. Today, long-standing experience has also been supplemented with technologies that can make homes energy-efficient.

Today, the most progressive and innovative system is the D-Shape system, which was developed by Enrico Dini. It allows you to create full-size sandstone buildings without any human intervention using a stereolithographic process that requires only sand and a special non-organic substance. At the same time, the material is indistinguishable from artificial marble in appearance and is 100% environmentally friendly.


Impact on society, economy, and the state

3D printing techniques can lead to a Cultural Revolution, as what seemed impossible a few years ago is already being implemented in concrete projects. Reducing the cost of construction with the help of 3D printing technologies, as well as the use of secondary industrial waste, can enable the poor around the world to get their own housing. The infrastructure of social protection and rehabilitation can also experience irreversible changes due to the spread of these technologies.

New construction technologies will not only make it possible to construct buildings cheaper and faster, which is already possible, but will also change the structure of society as a whole. New urban formations will be continually augmented with innovative construction work and new structures to meet people’s needs. This constantly changing organism at every moment of time will somewhat resemble the Web 2.0 technologies that form wikis, but it will no longer be online, but offline.

In order to build a house, you will no longer need to call workers and construction equipment. It will be enough to order the required file with the housing project, adjust it according to your own wishes and call one construction robot that can print and assemble the house from suitable materials.

At the same time, the spread of 3D printing technology will lead to the development of “smart” and “green” cities that are environmentally friendly, a significant departure from the globalized economy of today, which could be replaced by a hyper-local and personalized new age economy.


3D-printing for home use

General trends in technology development

3D printing technology is not new compared to other technologies — its active development is in the 2010s, although the patent for this technology was obtained in 1984. The use of this technology was postponed due to a lack of business prospects, according to French General Electric Company, but already in the 90s in the United States began to appear the first commercial companies that used it.

Today, 3D printing is used in manufacturing, medicine and, of course, as a home hobby, because the cost of 3D printers has fallen by orders of magnitude. And one of the possibilities for the technology’s development has been the personalisation of things.

On Thingiverse, where 3D models are collected for general use, you can find more than 50 000 projects — from one of the simplest models, for example, a spoon stand, which can be useful among kitchen accessories, to a scale model of a shark’s skull in the form of cufflinks or puzzles. However, these are not the only models that can be personalized — anyone can print a watchband, orthopedic insoles, a docking station, an iPhone case, or shower curtain rings.

At the moment, the main limitation for 3D printing is the material, since most home printer models work with photopolymers. However, with the wider use of other materials in everyday life, the personalization of things in the near future can achieve much more.

The manufacturer of the Swedish supercar Koenigsegg has already announced that in the production of its hypercar One:1 uses a lot of components made on a 3D printer. In May 2015, Airbus reported that the Airbus A350 XWB model has more than 1,000 parts that were also created using this technology. Therefore, in the near future, we will be able to print a car or even an airplane according to our own preferences using 3D printers.

Separately, it is worth mentioning that 3D printers allow the printing of firearms — and this could lead to a new debate in society on the realization of the individual’s right to personal protection. In the US, there have already been attempts to fight the distribution of gun models for 3D printers, but each ban only serves to spread the word. A certain compromise in the US has been to allow the printing of firearms, which can be identified by traditional methods (e.g. metal detector). However, the UK government has already stated that the production of 3D weapons would be illegal in the kingdom.

Thus, we see how the evolution of new technology raises a whole layer of old problems (patents, intellectual property, copyright, industrial design rights) — all this should be reviewed as part of the development of 3D printing. However, the spread of technology, and, above all, the ability to independently assemble a 3D printer and thus be “invisible” to the state under regulatory conditions, requires building new rules of the game.


Impact on society, economy, and the government

Currently, 3D printing technology is one of the most breakthrough technologies in modern society. For a long time, there has been a debate about the fact that this technology, due to personalization, will change the market for mass consumption of many products. If there is a mass adaptation of this technology to the market and society, then, indeed, many products can be independently printed on your home 3D printer, and not spend money on their purchase. In the meantime, even after several years of its active development, it remains in the sphere of interests of geeks and fans of creating something with their own hands.

An essential factor in influencing innovation development in general, which must be taken into account, is the use of industrial 3D printing, which makes it possible to reduce the cost of components and make them easily replaceable. Theoretically, it is precisely in such a small personalization that the vector of economic development in the coming years may lie when the goods will be produced by industry, but the personalization of things will be given to customers.

Another factor that has been actively discussed for some time is the further blurring of the boundaries between home and work with the spread of 3D printing technology. At the same time, this technology opens up opportunities for businesses to spread the design of new things around the world, which can lead to changes in the delivery of goods.

At the same time, the production becomes as local and personalized as possible, since each owner of a 3D printer will be able to show their own individuality. Everyone can already buy customized Nike cleats created using a 3D printer based on the customer’s foot scans.

The most fantastic thing is to create a 3D printer that can self-replicate, but such developments are already being successfully carried out within the framework of the RepRap project, which allows you to print parts of yourself (but you still need a person to build it!).

For the state, the development of 3D printing technology means greater trust in citizens, since it will be complicated to create total control over the spread of the technology. At the same time, the home production of things will change both the employment of the population and the structure of tax payments. The democratization of the means of production can raise many new questions: the processing of nanomaterials, the regulation of intellectual property, the proliferation of weapons, and others like that.

Also, society will face a lot of new challenges — for example, there are already fewer people working in manufacturing in the United States than receiving unemployment benefits. The decline in the share of industrial production due to its automation and the spread of 3D printing can worsen the problem of unemployment among the productive population, causing a wide public response.

Globally, the least developed countries and societies are more in need of 3D printing technology, as it allows them to create the necessary tools for local needs without wasting time and money on delivering the necessary industrial goods.

2 Apr 2021


Stay tuned and don’t forget to follow us:





More From Startup Jedi