What is 3D Printing?


Additive manufacturing or 3D printing is a process by which a computer sends a 3D printer specific instructions to create an item through layers and layers of a special material (most of the time some sort of polymer or liquid which hardens when exposed to light). It has proven to be of many uses in many different fields. For example, 3D printing is used in the creation of many prototypes to show their feasibility, it has been used to print toys, specific parts made out of plastic and more recently it has been used to print full-scale houses.

When talking about its origins, there are some issues that should be considered. Some say the first attempt at something similar to 3D printing can be traced as far back as 1860. It was something called Photo Sculpture, which was created by French artist François Willème, who set 24 cameras around an object to get a 3D visual of said object in order to sculpt a scale model of it.

Others claim that it was around the early 80’s, when Hideo Kodama, a Japanese researcher, invented the first two models of modern 3D printers which used a photo sensitive polymer (a polymer which would harden when exposed to UV light).

Even others object that it was three French engineers, chemists and inventors who patented the first 3D printer Jean Claude André, Olivier de Witte and Alain Le Méhauté.

3D printing has become a very cheap solution in many different fields. For instance, in 2015 Chinese company WinSun printed 10 houses in 24 hours in Shangai and printed the first five-floor apartment building ever. They did so use special 3D printing technology, a combination of industrial waste along with special cement which hardens faster than regular quick drying cement.

Due to the lack of human labor in the process, risks and costs associated with it are lowered. On top of that, a lot of money is saved from construction waste (which is non-existant). More recently, the first 250 square meters office building was printed in Dubai. It was also made by Chinese company WinSun and it took 17 days to be ready even though it needed some finishing details on the inside and the outside.

3D printing has also been used in medicine to 3D print prosthetics for patients lacking limbs such as legs or arms. It has had a huge positive impact on the lives of those patients who have been benefited by this and their families. Nevertheless, there have also been 3D printed organs for patients using their own cells, which is definitely a breakthrough in the field of health. No longer will patients have to wait for years to get a transplant from a donor. They can simply get a new kidney or liver printed in a matter of days or even hours.

3D printing has been a major advance for humanity as a whole. It has proved its effectiveness and usefulness in many fields. It opens the gate for a bright future full of possibilities. We cannot avoid being hopeful for what is yet to come regarding 3D printing.