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Creative Use Cases for 3D Printing

3D printers are being used for food and even medical applications

There are a ton of exciting things also happening in the world of 3D printing. It’s no longer solely useful for printing action figures. At CES, for example, a company called 3D Systems was printing 3D candy. They are doing a deal with Hershey’s to do 3D chocolate. If they can do it for chocolate, then wider use of 3D printing is sure to follow.

What’s really exciting is that people have been finding a plethora of use cases for 3D printing in fields such as medicine. There have been stories just recently about 3D printed patches for skulls. Or, at Wake Forest University, a researcher named James Hughes created a machine that can 3D print skin directly onto burn victims, and at the University of Liverpool, they’ve created technology that uses 3D scanners to replicate the recipient’s skin tones. That’s something that’s given the researchers fits in the past.

People have printed bones, noses, ears, blood vessels, even prosthetic eyes. Eyes once had to be hand painted, which is tedious, expensive, and not easy to do.

There’s another advantage of 3D printing: how it could provide people in remote areas with the ability to access things like this that would, under normal circumstances, take a very long time to be delivered to them. In remote locations, people have very few options as it relates to things that they may have a critical need for but which may be required only on a rare occasion. Certain medical emergency needs, for instance, might fall into this category.

This is a common use case for 3D printing. People can stock everything they possibly need, which is probably not practical, or they can take a risk they won’t need them, which might result in a severe delay which could cause further problems should they need them. Or they can use a 3D printer to create what they need on-demand. The crew of the International Space Station is actually running tests to see whether they could address this by producing the tools that they require for repairs via 3D printing.

This makes me wonder how long until we see mainstream use of 3D printing to address this problem more broadly. I think that day is actually much closer than we might think.

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More Stories By Jeffrey Abbott

Jeffrey Abbott (@JeffreyAbbott) was most recently a Senior Corporate Marketing Director at CA Technologies working on IT trends such as cloud, mobility and big data. Jeff’s 20 years of high-tech marketing experience spans startups, mid-sized, and multi-billion dollar firms. Jeff is an avid skier, backpacker, do-it-yourselfer, car-guy, father, husband, and dog-lover living in the suburbs of Boston.