3D printing (additive or augmented manufacturing) translates digital files into three-dimensional objects by layering material in a process known as additive manufacturing. Printheads release matter in precise orientations that can produce complex structures, ranging from jewelry to three-story homes.
250 materials: Current 3D printers can produce functional part- and full-color objects from over 250 different materials, including metals, plastics, ceramics, glass, rubber, leather, stem cells, and even chocolate.
100x faster: More recently, groundbreaking stereolithography methods have succeeded in producing complex shapes at up to 100 times the speed of traditional 3D printers. Building from a bed of photoreactive liquid resin, the application of different light wavelengths has been found to selectively harden the resin as it’s released and thereby achieve a continuous print. Say goodbye to incremental layering!
90 percent material efficient: Beyond rapid and high-resolution production, additive manufacturing poses extraordinary second-order implications. Promising decimated economic and environmental costs, 3D printing eliminates tremendous amounts of waste, as raw material requirements are reduced by as much as 90 percent.
3D printing further unlocks opportunities for mass customization, democratized production, and systematic perfection. Already, major international breakthroughs in additive manufacturing are accelerating these trends and birthing new convergent applications.
The Next 5 Printing Breakthroughs (2019-2024)
1.3D printing speeds are slated to increase by 50-100X
3D printing rates have typically been limited by (1) how much force a printhead can apply, (2) how fast a printer can heat the material to induce flow, and (3) how quickly the printhead itself can move.
2.Sustainable, affordable, 3D printed neighborhoods are launching
The construction and real estate industries will experience disruption at monumental scales, as 3D printed homes offer cheaper, environmentally-friendly alternatives to traditional housing. 3D printed homes appeared for the first time last year in the Dutch city of Eindhoven, where a shortage of bricklayers increased the demand for this technology.
3.Convincing and delicious 3D printed steaks and burgers in fine restaurants on Earth and in space
3D printed meat using plant-based proteins will provide a more sustainable solution to feeding the world’s growing population. Livestock produces 14.5 to 18 percent of global human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.
4.Metal 3D printers will overtake plastics
Prepare for the emergence of 3D printed jewelry, car and airplane parts, kitchenware, and prototypes. 3D metal printers will not only eliminate waste in manufacturing, but also create more lightweight parts—a development especially pertinent to aircraft construction.
As new methods and materials continue to spring up, how will you integrate 3D printing into your own business in the coming years? What new ventures will you build around these emerging applications?