3D printing, the future of manufacturing, is infiltrating many industries, making it hard to ignore, says Jorgen Collinson, a technical specialist at Optus who has long studied the technology.
Speaking at a tech trends event by Females in Information Technology and Telecommunications (FITT) today in Sydney, Collinson highlighted the implications for 3D printing and how it is transforming industries.
One of the biggest impacts 3D printing can have is in healthcare. Scientists and technologists have already figured out ways to print hip replacements and customised prosthetics that fit more comfortably with the individual. But Collinson says the next step is printing living tissue such as kidneys, livers and skin.
“There’s a lot of research being done, in Chinese universities and MIT and other places, where they are able to 3D print tissue. There are 120,000 people worldwide who are currently on a waiting list for a kidney,” he said.
“You’ll be able to take cells from a patient and grow those cells and 3D print a replacement organ. No longer do we have to worry about organ donors; it’s now about growing the organs on a case by case basis.”
In May this year, Queensland-based scientific research firm, UniQuest, signed an agreement with US-based bio printing company, Organovo, to produce kidney tissues using a 3D printer.
3D printing in the construction industry is another trend Collinson says is starting to take off. Companies around the world are looking to reduce weeks of construction down to hours, while significantly lowering costs, and are turning to 3D printing for this.
Collinson said architects and designers send their CAD files to the 3D printer that constructs the walls and basic structure of a house on site. The house is constructed layer by layer, using materials such as cement.
In April this year, a Chinese company was able to 3D print 10 single story houses in one day.
The third industry Collinson sees 3D printing playing a prominent role in is retail. Using the example of jewellery, he said retailers are tapping into a more meticulous consumer market where it’s all about consumers creating their own designs or customised designs.
Last year, Neiman Marcus, a major upscale retailer in the United States, made an agreement with Shapeways to produce 3D printed customised jewellery. An order is made through NeimanMarcus.com, then Shapeways prints and ships the product from its Long Island City factory and the customer receives the item within three weeks.