Creating cool stuff has come a long way since the first factory line. These days, a new technology called 3D printing is making waves. Brands and regulars joes alike are experimenting with this special machine to print out anything their hearts desire from computer instructions. In total 3D, seriously!
Suddenly, the concept is being used in a wide variety of fields. Design for household objects, clothing, decor and even food include some pretty freaky prototypes. Medical labs are trying to print out human organs. Even bridges and houses are targets! What are the most surprising applications of this futuristic manufacturing, right this minute?
This Futuristic Boat to Sail the Seven Seas
Small things might seem like obvious ideas for a printer. But what about big, large, and huge objects? No one would suspect this 3D-printed fiberglass boat. Christened Mambo, it’s 2.5 meters wide and 6.5 meters long with a dry weight of around 800 kg. How was it printed, exactly?
Patented tech called Continuous Fiber Manufacturing, or CFM, holds promise for all kinds of 3D wavy wonders. The concave and convex curve here would be tricky, or even impossible to achieve with traditional manufacturing methods. But since it was produced with CFM in three-dimensional printed resin, all bets were off. All sorts of shapes are possible now!
A Custom Beak for This Poor Lil’ Toucan
It’s hard to believe, but there are quite a few toucans missing their beaks. Accidents and human cruelty are often at play, and it’s no laughing matter. For these birds to lose a chunk of their chompers, it’s like losing a limb. Mating and eating become difficult. Girl birds really seem to like those big, healthy beaks!
A few 3D printing companies have stepped in to offer designs for toucans in distress. Here, a successful prosthetic was created using all the right colors to fit into the flock. Other animals have benefited from advances in 3D printing in similar ways. The internet recently oohed and ahhed to a turtle with a titanium jaw and an elephant with a new prosthetic leg, both 3D printed. Mother Nature sends her thanks!
These Insane Shoes With a Tiny, Golden Man
In the world of shoes, there’s no shortage of designs. Ideally, the limits should simply be the imagination of a brand. Good news has arrived: 3D printing might make novelties cost-effective. Here, Brazillian indie brand Melissa upgraded their plastic heel game with designer Sebastian Errazuriz. It’s absolutely glorious, despite the burden on this little guy. Ouch!
3D printing also offers sustainability options in the business. Plastics are often seen as eco-unfriendly. But some recycled polymers are strong enough to make a pretty sturdy shoe, and the technology is developing rapidly. It’s not a norm in footwear yet, but the prototypes look promising!
Your Own Brain, Literally
Ever had an MRI scan at the doc? It may sound like science fiction, but it is now possible to print out a life-sized replica using this data. CT scans work, too. As long as there is digital documentation of the grey matter inside, a 3D printer can make it come to life. Get to know all those glorious folds, unique to you!
Whether it is for medical research purposes, or just for fun, a program called FreeSurfer has been designed to process and analyze the images for production. Available for both Mac and PC, the software package is currently open-source. The ultimate conversation piece is just a few clicks and a print away!
Custom Gummies in Any Shape or Color
Gooey, squishy candy is always a hit with kids. Adults secretly snack on it, too. Gummy worms and bears have been popular for decades. Now, there is an innovation in the gummy field. A German company has created a 3D candy printer called “Magic Candy Factory”. Your sugary wish is at their command!
Using fruit gum liquid, seven different colors and ten shapes have been programmed so far. This novel device can print gummies in just 3 to 10 minutes, which is a big leap forward in the business. Competitors who tried it in the past took nearly an hour. Willy Wonka himself would be proud!
Customizable, Touchable Art for the Blind
Let’s face it: Art opinions vary widely. But whatever taste differences people may have, they still have sight in common. Innovation and compassion combined recently to produce touchable paintings for the visually impaired. With 3D printing on the horizon, all sorts of existing art can be translated into this medium.
Now, anyone with the right printer can create replicas of the masterpieces everyone knows and loves. Blind people have always known of something called the Mona Lisa, but it has been an abstraction. It is now time to bring that famous lady to life, with downloadable digital design. The possibilities are as endless as the galleries at the Louvre!
This Terrifying T-Rex Showerhead
Jeff Goldblum explained it well in Jurassic Park: “God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys god. Man creates dinosaurs.” What about dinosaur showerheads, though? The biotechnology in the film was impressive, they didn’t have a 3D printer. If they did, there’s no telling what could have happened!
Now bathtime can be terrifying, just like the kids always wanted. The dino decor data can be downloaded online, for those with access to a printer. Other users are selling their pre-printed creations for purchase. No matter what, 3D printing is not going extinct anytime soon. Hold onto your butts!
Printed Fruit Globs that Taste Like Any Fruit
Design studio Dovetailed has applied 3D printing to the world of fruit. In an industry first, they have created a food printer that uses molecular-gastronomy. The technique is called spherification, and its chief inventor has a big vision: “With our novel printing technique, you can not only recreate existing fruits but also invent your own creations.”
Using an organic solution mixed with fruit juices, the machine lets users print an orange or a pear in just seconds. Any shape or size is possible for a juicy snack. Professional chefs and amateur foodies alike may one day have easy access to designer fruit. Fresh and healthy is easy when it’s on-demand!
An Entire House, Big as it May Be
Even if boats are being printed, no one would imagine the gigantic is in play. Whole houses are part of the fun of 3D printing, as impossible as it may sound. Large concrete printers exist now, and they offer great promise in terms of time and cost efficiency for homes and commercial projects alike. What’s an example, in dollar bills?
One Russian-American company called Apis Cor is developing a mobile 3D concrete printer that can create buildings right on-site in less than a day. They demonstrated building a 410 square foot prototype in just that time. Astonishingly, some projects cost as little as $10,000. Others claim to be even cheaper!
A Sturdy Bike Frame to Ride All Day
Silicon Valley has decided to innovate on the most basic thing in transportation. Not the wheel — no need to reinvent that. But the bike has gotten a makeover, and it’s all in 3D printing. Bicycle brand Superstrata has revealed it’s made to measure bike, and it’s all in carbon. A single piece was printed from a blueprint on a laptop. Easy peasy!
It’s incredibly light and extremely impact resistant. And it comes in light or dark! Besides big companies, students are also getting in on the fun. Science guy James Novak designed and printed a bike for his PHD studies. He explained: “It opens up the ability to create one-off, customizable pieces that may be lighter and stronger than traditional frames through the use of complex lattice structures.” A unique take on the subject, and mroe coming soon?
Human Body Parts for Injured Folks
ER docs frequently see injuries from car crashes, dangerous dogs, and accidents on the job. Sometimes, plastic surgery is necessary to repair the damage. It’s not perfect, and scars are often left behind after reconstruction. What if there was a way to simply print out a new nose or ear? Bioengineers at the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine believe the answer may lie in 3D printing. The results look more than promising!
To achieve the look, a model of the extremity is printed in mesh. Then, it is soaked in growing viable stem cells, and placed in incubating conditions similar to the human body. From there, it develops into a very realistic replacement, all on its own. While this technique is not currently in use yet, one day it may be. Isn’t it time prosthetics got an upgrade?
A Full Iron Man Costume for Any Occasion
It’s no surprise that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has inspired 3D printing projects. Fantasy fans rightly observe the possibilities are super. Competition has begun to print the most realistic Iron Man suit, and a few models are available for download. Who knew cosplay was already this high-tech?
The results are pretty impressive, based on pictures posted on social media. But not everyone with a passion for vibranium has access to the magic machine. Some fans prepare for conventions by using a 3D printing service. Craftcloud, for example, is a marketplace that allows users to choose both designs and providers. Robert Downey Jr. himself would be impressed with the imitations!
A Real Bridge, Now in a European City
3D printing technology is on the radar of many city planners, currently. The possibilities are becoming more concrete, these days — literally, concrete. With better customization and architectural flexibility, it would be nice to build a bridge or two in tricky spots. One Spanish town already designed and created this one. Who would ever guess it was printed?
Quick-growing Dubai is intrigued and has launched an initiative that mandates 25% of future buildings use 3D printing, at least in part, by 2030. Reports by the top Spanish company in the biz indicated that 3D concrete printing could achieve impressive results while saving 50% to 70% in construction cost, and up to 80% in labor. That’s right, everyone: Terrifying robots are here to take those jobs, soon!
Magic Legs for Any Size Kitty Cat
Wheelchairs for pets are not exactly a big market. It’s rare that one is needed since so many people euthanize sick and crippled animals. But some owners want a custom solution for their doggos and meow meows, big and small. Sizes range so much for household companions, that a custom solution would be ideal. Enter, 3D printing!
Cost-effective and simple to build, one compassionate designer released a model called FiGO. Owners can print out the pieces and easily assemble them with a few screws, here and there. Furballs all around the world could benefit from comfortable wheels, just like people. Luckily, the technology is here to do it!
3D Printed Selfies are the Future
Previously, the biggest tech trends on the selfie scene were filter apps and the selfie stick. But now, there’s a new way to capture one’s likeness. This time, it’s 3D. And it involves the entire body, front, back, and side to side. A few techniques are available: One is more accurate, and the other is easier. Pros and cons are tricky, as always.
A photograph can be used to put a face on a generic body. Or, a full-body scan can be used to print out a custom face and body. Depending on the machines available, some pretty impressive replicas of the self are possible. Figurines come in a variety of printed sizes, usually from 5 to 45 cm tall. Now, everyone can have a mini-me that would make Dr. Evil applaud. Isn’t it time?
Avant Garde Bikinis for the Pool
The very first bikini was debuted in 1946 at a Paris swimming pool. Since then, it has gone through many changes. Beachgoers have enjoyed the high cut, the itty bitty polka dot, the Brazilian thong, and so much more. It seems like it’s time to try something new, but what? Enter, 3D swim. Panamanian fashion student Nadir Gordon created this futuristic prototype for a concept show. It’s definitely a new concept!
Her project was called “Waves”, and she used 3D printing because it would be “almost impossible to construct with fabrics and the traditional ways of creating a garment.” The beach has never seen anything like this, that’s for sure. In the not so far future, this might make some real-life waves!
Actual Human Organs, Printed in a Lab
It’s the dream, almost in reach. Humanity is very close to being able to print out whole human organs. According to the American Transplant Foundation: “On average, 20 people die every day from the lack of available organs for transplant.” And that’s just in the USA. Imagine the rest of the planet!
Researchers at Rice University in Texas are experimenting with a solution. They are trying out something called “bioprinting” — a method that uses 3D printing to create organ facsimiles. Cells are layered and exposed to blue light along the way to make them solid. Recently, they were able to produce a small “air sac” that seems a lot like a human lung. While it’s not ready for prime time yet, it was able to mimic air intake and exhalation. Breathtaking, indeed.
This Colorful Kayak for a River Trip
Just because it’s possible to print a fancy boat doesn’t mean the classics don’t have a place in the harbor. 3D printed kayaks are possible and quite colorful. Jim Smith is a 3D Systems engineer, and he decided to print his passion. Using just 500 worth of ABS plastic, silicone, and screws, he printed and assembled a 5-meter long kayak. It floats, and everything!
Some might wonder why Jim would bother making this boat at all. But looking at market prices, $500 is a pretty good deal. Usually, a minimum investment of $1,000 is required for similar quality. And even so, this color scheme would be impossible to find. Most kayaks just lack that je ne sais quois, don’t they?
Super Cool Purses in Any Shape
Italian designer Odo Fioravanti decided he had done enough traditional design. When he heard about 3D printing, there was no way he could pass up that chance for more. More angles, more ruffles, more ridges. Overall, more imagination. And that’s the real heart of design, isn’t it?
His collection of geometric purses really made a splash, on social media. But he had an original idea. Other users are scheming to 3D print their very own designer bags, without paying full price. Counterfeit was the plague of the past, for fashion houses. Now, easy 3D printers might be a blessing and a curse!
These Tiny Dino Arms to Upgrade Your Rooster
Chickens are flightless birds, and that’s how most people like them. There is no desire to help them evolve into flyaway creatures. But there does seem to be some desire to help them become part-dinosaur, just like their suspected ancestors. 3D printers are being used all over America to create a little T-Rex arm customized for roosters. The question is, are the hens totally into it?
Maybe it’s not quite a Tyrannosaurus Rex. But for now, it’s the closest that humankind is going get to experience the terror. Available as a neat little file to download, farmers anywhere near a printer can transform their stock. The arms can be scaled to the exact size of the runt or prize-winner. Arms for all, big and small!
A Darth Vader Pen Holder, Because Why Not
Darth Vader never seemed suited for a desk job, from what fans could tell. Confined here to a new role as a penholder, he probably is not cut out for it. Why the change? He was content to fly around the galaxy plotting evil, and it’s not even clear that gravity allows pens to work in space. All that floating ink right?
Regardless, 3D printing will allow Star Wars collectors to have a little fun. And at the office, that’s the best. Various models of the dark lord exist on an open-source basis, and one merely needs a good machine. May the force be with you, and your signature!
Take a Seat in One of These Printed Retro Chairs
Chairs have taken many forms over the centuries. First a handmade artisan item, and later mass-produced factory furniture, there are now many ways to successfully create a seat. Obviously, 3D printing needed to get in on the party. This classic 50s Easy Chair design was reimagined as a digital project by designer Benjamin Fainlight.
3D printed to be flat-packed, it can be assembled and taken apart at will. Super portable! 10 units were printed and priced at $6,500 to order online. Unlike a traditional factory, Ben doesn’t have the infrastructure to make too many of them. Or maybe, he doesn’t want to?
A Working Violin to Stand Out in Orchestra
For centuries, string instruments brought music to people’s ears. They still do actually, But the wooden model has been a staple for so long, 3D print fans decided the medium needed an update. Check out the 3Dvarius, a high-end, 3D printed electrical violin. It’s made in France, but customers are intrigued worldwide.
Printed as a single piece using an SLA printer, musicians say it has a quality audio range. The open sourcers are experimenting with their own models. But for now, this top design is not available to download. Made to order, the violin starts at 6,999 euros. But that’s nothing compared to a real Stradivarius: Those have sold for $16 million!
Captain America’s Shield for Every Hero
Captain America’s Shield was originally made of Vibranium, a rare metal in the Marvel movies originally found in Wakanda. Wars were fought over the stuff. But now, with 3D printing, a reasonable imitation can be made in a flash. Is as strong, and indestructible? No. But it does look pretty cool on a desk!
Hey, the original shield was destroyed by Thanos. It’s possible future shields will be, too. Using new technology to create a replacement isn’t the worst plan B, for Captain America. As long as he knows how to access the crowdsourced designs, he can have a whole closet of spares!
Custom Casts to Heal Broken Bones Right
Casts seem like they work pretty well, as is. Why anyone would need to improve them is not something most folks spend their time pondering. But some think outside the box. Or in this case, the cast. Check out the 3D printed, new and improved version: Breathable, thin, waterproof, easily removable, customized.
Because of the open design, an infection might be less likely. But more research is needed to convince all doctors to switch. Overall, there is an indication that printing will be in the ER more often in the future. Medical 3D printing has been projected to be worth more than a billion buckaroos over the next few years. Surprised?
Modern Chess Sets to Suit Any Taste
Chess is an ancient game, and the basic design is always the same. Sure, people have experimented with different materials and different color combinations over the millennia. Sometimes the pieces really differ from board to board. But whatever models existed before, things are about to get pretty wild. Not wild like Bobby Fischer, but just more 3D.
Now, any 8 x 8 playing board with 32 pieces can be downloaded in any design and printed on the spot. Clever users can create their own king, queen, bishop, rook, knight, and pawn, and pass them on to the community. It’s time to say checkmate, in style!
Printed Sneaker Technology Emerges
Major footwear brands are getting in on the trend, too. Additive Manufacturing is the name of the printed technique in the biz, and it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a cost-saver. Adidas already released a running shoe with a sole created in this way. Nike and Reebok are experimenting and sharing their ideas on social media.
And the indie designers? They love creating new concepts in 3D. Printing allows designers to structure shoes as Avante-Garde as they feel that day. And even as a temporary medium of creativity, it’s a great way to try out prototypes along the way for traditional production plans. Hey, why not?
Chic Clothing in Every Shape and Size
For those who love the geometric trend, 3D printing has been applied to clothing with stunning results. Wild and wacky shapes for dresses have never been easier. But the benefits are more than visual or financial. This new manufacturing might be an eco dream come true, according to some.
According to designer Ganit Goldstein, who regularly works with the machine: “The technique of 3D printing in fashion is a great sustainable tool…With 3D printing, we are able to choose exactly which materials to print and how much we need, as well as the precise pattern we want to obtain, without incurring unneeded waste, a notion that is both empowering and impactful.” For an industry that burns billions in extra garments every year, it’s certainly interesting.
An Itty Bitty Bowtie With No Ties
Oh look, a little bowtie. It’s 3D printed, of course. According to the Italian designer, it’s revolutionary. Why? Upon closer inspection, the ad explains that no tying is necessary at all. In that sense, it is unlike most on the market. They promise: “This original and inventive item is going to change the way you put on your tie”. But that’s not all!
Winner of a silver A’Design Award, a major one based in Italy, there are a lot of reasons the product stood out in the crowd. Maybe it was the lightweight design that easily slots in a short. Or maybe it was the versatility, great for “guys, uncles, dads, professors, bosses” as it claims. No ribbon required, printed in any color. Easy as a pizza pie. Perfecto!