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10 innovations in the 3D printing realm

What are some of the most exciting inventions and investments in 3D printing today?
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1 of 10 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

3D printed parts for fighter jets

This year, UK fighter jets have flown for the first time using parts created through 3D printing. 

BAE Systems announced that metal components produced through the technology were successfully used in Tornado aircraft based at Warton, Lancashire. According to the firm, further development could bring down the Royal Air Force's maintenance and service bill by over £1 million in the next four years.

Mike Murray, head of airframe integration at BAE Systems, said:

"You are suddenly not fixed in terms of where you have to manufacture these things. You can manufacture the products at whatever base you want, providing you can get a machine there, which means you can also start to support other platforms such as ships and aircraft carriers."

Via: The Guardian

Image credit: BAE Systems

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2 of 10 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Ceramic printing

Bristol University students in the United Kingdom have been experimenting with 3D printing, and have unveiled the first machine capable of printing out useful, reliable ceramic objects. The 3D ceramic tableware printer prints a porcelain material which is touted as "superior" to what other printers on the market can produce. Taken commercially, such inventions could bring down both manufacturing cost and time of production.

Via: UWE

Image credit: Bristol University

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3 of 10 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

The Gigabot

Size matters, at least to the makers of the Gigabot, a large format 3D printer capable of building objects 600mm x 600mm x 600mm, which is basically unheard of in today's desktop 3D printers. 

After launching a Kickstarter campaign and reaching beyond $200,000 in funding, Gigabot creators re:3D hope to put a manufacturing-standard 3D printer in to the hands of small businesses worldwide.

Via: Kickstarter

Image credit: Gigabot

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4 of 10 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

3D printed guns

While potentially placing guns in the unlicensed hands of the general public isn't the safest option, the development of weaponry using 3D printed parts is still innovative.

While Defense Distributed was the first to develop and release blueprints for 3D-printed parts focused on guns, a 3D-printed gun was later discovered on AR-15.com, showing the construction of a gun using the technology which successfully fired off 200 rounds without signs of complications. 

The gun in question combined the normal body of a .22 caliber pistol with a printed lower receiver used in AR-15 assault rifles.

While innovative and potentially useful in the military, if everyone can print off their own guns, there's little point in gun control regulation.

Via: AR-15

Image credit: AR15.com

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5 of 10 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

3D printed houses

3D printing is not only limited to healthcare, vehicles, or weaponry — it may also one day provide us with cheaper homes.

An Amsterdam-based architecture firm, Dus Architects, is working hard on a project underway in the country: the construction of a traditional canal house manufactured by 3D printing.

Rather than being built from wood or brick, the canal house is being printed on-site, where Logo-like plastic blocks provide the structure. Each room is printed separately before being assembled to connected floors and stacked to create the house.

The "3D Print Canal House" is a proof-of-concept research project that aims to show how the construction industry can move towards a more sustainable, cost-effective model.

Via: The Verge

Image credit: Dus Architects

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6 of 10 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Rebuilding human faces

Cardiff resident Stephen Power had his life turned upside down after a motorbike accident caused grievous injuries to his face.

However, thanks to 3D printing in surgery, his face was reconstructed.

Power shattered his nose, cheekbones, top jaw and fractured his skull through the accident, which left him in hospital for four months. 

In an eight-hour procedure the patient describes as "life changing," surgeons at Morriston Hospital, Swansea printed guides, plates, and implants to repair injuries caused by the impact months after being inflicted. CT scans were used to create and print a symmetrical model of Power's head, before printing implants to match. The technology proved to be a success as it took the guesswork out of reconstructive surgical procedures.

Via: BBC

Image credit: Screenshot via BBC

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7 of 10 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Innovation centers and investment

MakerBot, one of many companies creating 3D printers affordable enough for the average consumer, recently announced partnerships with businesses and universities to create "innovation centers" that will help firms 'innovate faster, collaborate better, and be more competitive.'

In other words, these centers are the first step in improving collaboration and creating standards for the 3D printing industry.

Over 30 desktop 3D printers and scanners will be placed in each center, where university students will be able to experiment with the fledgling technology, and businesses will be able to speed up product design cycles.

MakerBot also plans to start early with the next generation, and has pledged the introduction of a 3D printer within every school in the United States.

Via: SmartPlanet

Image credit: Makerbot | Louis Seigal

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8 of 10 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

3D printed cars

Following the success of the 3D printed Areion racer created by Belgian engineers last year, German automaker EDAG has come up with a concept car body "only possible" thanks to additive manufacturing — better known as 3D printing.

EDAG says the Genesis concept car's body is inspired by a turtle shell and is designed to be both stylish and offer greater protection while on the road through extra cushioning in the case of accidents. After printing both thermoplastic materials and carbon fiber for the internal frame, a metal casing would protect the inside of the car.

The hope is that by using 3D printing to create a single, unbroken structure of carbon fiber, the outer shell will make the vehicle far safer than today's vehicles.

Via: Daily Mail

Image credit: EDAG

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9 of 10 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

3D artificial limbs and prosthetics

3D printing has captured the imagination of those within the prosthetics industry, due to the cheapness and lightness of material as well as the high precision and accuracy that can be achieved through the use of 3D modelling.

In one example of many, a "crowd-solving" healthcare organization called Not Impossible Labs took interest in a Time Magazine article concerning a teenager who lost both arms to an Antonov bomb in Sudan. The group went to Sudan and created 3D printed prosthetic arms for the teenager in only six hours — which cost less than $100 to produce.

The project was later backed by Intel. 

Via: SmartPlanet

Image credit: Timoteo Freccia

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10 of 10 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

3D printed drones

With a top speed of 90mph, a Southampton University-backed company, Decode, has created drones through 3D printing.

The nylon aircraft is fully printed from components to flight, and takes only ten minutes to set up — without the use of any specialist tools. Through equipping the craft with a GPS system, autopilot software and receiver, you have a drone that can stay in the air for up to 30 minutes.

Via: Southampton.ac.uk

Image credit: Decode

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