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18 June 2012

Benefits of 3D Printing

The world of 3D printing is still in its infancy. Printing in three dimensions has always been something found in science fiction, but never thought possible until recent years. The ability to print an object in its entirety and hold it in your hands is still quite the technological marvel. While the practice of 3D printing slowly begins to flourish, it is becoming apparent that the possibilities for 3D printing are virtually limitless.

3D printing has gone through quite a few scientific speed bumps to get to the level it is currently at now. Printing in 3D started out as a rather troublesome process, producing uneven surfaces and yielding an unpolished, unusable final product with no practical applications. In its current state, the process involves 2D slices of each dimension of the desired object. The slices are, with the help of a computer, made into a composite 3D model that the printer carefully molds together. With the use of powder-based polymers that can be solidified with heat, 3D printing is now a feasible practice that has a variety of uses. Now, 3D printers can even create objects with moving parts.

First and foremost, 3D printing has been heralded as immensely helpful for engineering purposes. Three-dimensional printing can be incredibly versatile, as 3D printing can be used for creating spare parts, recreating broken parts, forming experimental prototypes, and even making tools, when necessary. The field is continually being researched in hopes that durable, useable tools can soon be made with the push of a button, rather than a lengthy ordering process or a long trip to the hardware store.

Perhaps even more exciting is the fact that 3D printers are also showing a lot of promise in the medical field. Printing in 3D is being explored as an option for creating and molding prosthetic parts or implants for patients. Many doctors are currently researching the feasibility of using 3D printing for grafts and rapid prototyping. The ability to create parts for medical use as needed is highly valued, especially when medical issues are so time-sensitive. The possibilities for 3D printing are endless, and we are only seeing the beginning.

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