3D Printing: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Part 1)

3D printing has been around for decades but fields ranging from interior design to medicine to culinary arts are still coming up with new ways to use the technology. We take a look at the history of the device and some of creative tasks its being used for today.

Much like smart houses, 3D printing feels like the technology of the future to many but has actually been around for decades.

In 1860, French artist François Willème developed a technique to capture an object in three dimensions. He would surround the object with 24 cameras every 15 degrees, photograph it with all cameras simultaneously, project each image onto a screen, then using a a href=”https://www.google.com.hk/search?q=pantograph&safe=active&source=lnms&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj7kZuj-ujSAhVGu7wKHZEaCdQQ_AUIBygA&biw=1600&bih=770&dpr=1#dobs=pantograph” target=”_blank”>pantograph with a cutter attached to one end, would trace/wood cut each image, assembling the wood pieces together to make the 3D sculpture.

Joseph Blanther, an Austrian living in Chicago, patenteda method for creating accurate topographical maps using layering and contouring in 1892, paving the way for accurately mapping the surface of objects using layering.

In 1972, Matsubura working for Mitsubishi Motors patented using photo-hardened materials called photopolymers to make layered parts. In 1981, Hideo Kadama published his report on a rapid photopolymer prototyping system using cross-sections of a modeled image.

The next major development printing technology was in 1987 when Charles Hull patentedstereolithography, which takes a 3D object and etches it in photopolymers using lasers. Strasys builds on Hull’s work in 1991, creating a fused deposition modeling machine that issues out layers of plastic onto a print bed.

Hull’s company 3D Systems patented the worlds first Stereolithography Apparatus (SLA) 3D printer in 1984 .

Diagram of the world’s first 3D printer. Image Credit: 3D Systems.

One of the most life-changing implementations of 3D printing has been its use in medicine.

In 2000, Clemson University bioengineer Thomas Boland used a Lexmark printer to print with collagen and E. coli bacteria, going on to file the first patent for printing cells in 2003.

He was followed by Hod Lipson of Cornell University, who began printing with cartilage. His first meniscus print was deemed too weak by surgeons to stand the rigors of everyday life, but developments to printing methods continued.

One of the first big successes 3D in printing was the creation of a 3D scaffold covered with the patient’s own cells to use in a bladder augmentation, with Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine publishing the results of the first implants in 2006.

Wake Forest’s Dr. Anthony Atala has since continued using the technology to make advances in organ regeneration (working on creating ears, noses, muscles, jaw bones and kidneys) andassist injured soldiers.

Medical experts continue to hone the craft of 3D medical technology and think of innovative new uses for it.

Scientists from Sweden’s Sahlgrenska Academy and Chalmers University of Technology recently built on the foundations Lipson established, successfully implanting human cartilage cells in six-week-old baby mice. Others have developed 3D printed bones for use in robotic synthetic hands , no-assembly-needed bionic legs and tissue and bone for gums and jaws.

A recent major breakthrough by scientists using spinach leaves to build working human heart muscle could address a major challenge 3D printing has had: creating a vascular network that can effectively keep organ tissue alive.

Taking another giant leap for mankind, Techshot Inc. is working on a making a condensed version of its bioprinter to go on a space capsule next January that could create transplantable organs and other human tissue to aid earth-bound patients and astronauts on long-duration space exploration.

One of the earliest industries to adopt 3D printing was aerospace, using it to model and build aircrafts with more complex, lightweight and durable aircrafts that are more quickly produced and have better fuel economy.

Terry Wohlers, president of Wohlers Associates in discussing the future of the industry with NPR in 2012, talked about the need for major aerospace players to embrace 3D printing beyond prototyping.

“I mean, they’ve been used for two decades as a solution for prototyping, but to get the GEs and the Honeywells and the Boeings of the world to understand that – and those three companies, by the way, are – they do get it and they are moving ahead quickly and they’re investing dearly in this technology,” Wohlers said.”And for example, Boeing has more than 20,000 parts on just one aircraft program. And they have 10 different platforms, production aircraft that are flying parts today.”

The aerospace industry has since leaned further into 3D printing. In 2014, GE Aviation invested $70 million in an Alabama factory to produce 3D printed jet engine fuel nozzles. The head of its engineering team Greg Morris predicted additive manufacturing would continue to soar in the coming years. Honeywell also opened 3D printing facility in 2014 in Arizona, followed by 3D printing laboratories in the Czech Republic, China and India.

Lockheed Martin and Honeywell began incorporating more manufactured components into their designs, with Lockheed sending its first 3D printed parts to Jupiter in 2016. Honeywell sent 3D-printed hardware into space on the ABS-2A satellite. Boeing announced this year that it would be using more than 600 3D-printed parts on its CST-100 Starliner space taxis, which will be used by NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program in its work to expand space travel beyond government-led missions.

3D printing machinery maker Stratasys has also developed technology that would allow airlines to pick made-to-order customizable airplane interiors potentially reducing the need for warehouse space and traditional manufacturing tools.

Auto manufacturers too have made the transition from modeling into production.

Honda put up five 3D-printable concept car models on its website for fans to download and displayed a 3D printed electric car that was actually operational at Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies 2016 show.

Many automakers are now investing in robust 3D printing labs and production in the industry’s to produce cars that cost less to make, have higher efficiency and are easier to customize.

Ford recently announced it’s testing large-scale 3-D printing technology for car parts, potentially letting owners customize their cars for less cost. In 2016, automaker Daimler announced its intent to producer spare auto parts through 3D printing as well. French car producer PSA also teamed with American startup Divergent 3D to develop metal printing processes for PSA production lines. Audi announced this year it would be establishing a 3D center at its factory in Germany to develop production of components and tools made from steel and aluminium.

They’re also coming up with ways to use 3D printing in more innovative ways for building and modeling. BMW developed a tool called Unreal Engine that merges 3D printing and VR, creating virtual surfaces and objects over 3D-printed prototype vehicle pieces, letting designers view how various materials or surfaces will look on a vehicle without having to produce it first.


Charles Hall’s patents initially helped his company Stratasys dominated the market, but when they expired it allowed for other printers to enter the market,

A wide range of food including pizza, pasta, pancakes, chocolate, chickpea nuggets,corn chips, candy, cheese, cookie dough, jelly, marzipan, meat, vegetable paste, mashed potatoes and liver pâté.

3D Systems launched its two 3D food printers at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in 2014 (along with food printer competitors including Natural Machines and Choc Edge) and opened a 3DS Culinary Lab in California in 2015 to promote and explore future uses for 3D printing in the culinary industry.

BeeHex, the first 3D pizza printer, launched in 2016 with a $125,000 grant from NASA to develop the device for production of food in space for astronauts, later going on to adapt its product for commercial purposes as well.

https://www.timeout.com/london/blog/the-worlds-first-3d-printing-restaurant-is-coming-to-london-071416 England opened the world’s first pop-up 3D food printing restaurant calledFood Inkin 2016.

Now, food printers like Bocusini are seeking to make food printing in reach of the average consumer, with more cost-friendly printers and open-source communities for the exchange of printing design templates. MIT has been developing a 3D printer called The Cornucopia to allow for more control over food’s nutrition and composition while cutting back on waste and encouraging new cooking methodologies.

From encouraging chef industry professionals to use 3D printing in novel ways, to empowering consumers to create their own food make-up and design, to pioneering the production of appetizing food in space and cutting down on food waste, 3D printing continues to hold revolutionary potential to impact how we address a fundamental human need.

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