The Future of 3D Printing Technology

To many people, 3D printing is so futuristic that it is hard to fathom. To others, it is a glimpse into a manufacturing revolution, and the market has made its demands clear. The Guardian reports that 3D printing analysts have predicted that more than 2 million 3D printers will be sold by 2018. As 3D printers become more prevalent, they unlock amazing possibilities across many fields and eventually in our very homes. Here is a look at the future of 3D printing technology, and how it can and will change the world around us.

Prototyping and Manufacturing

One of the widely applicable uses of 3D printing technology is in the creation of prototypes. As the attention to detail and accuracy of printers improves, as well as the size of the objects that can be printed, prototypes for many fields can be created. Today, the aerospace and defense industries both utilize 3D printers for a variety of purposes, such as creating topographical models and designing parts for airplanes. In the future,we may see 3D printing used to create large-scale airplane parts or even be used in space exploration.

3D printing is also perfectly suited to defense manufacturing, as military equipment must be reliable and consistent. According to a CSC report, the EOIR Technology reduced the cost of M1 Abrams Tank camera gunsights by more than $60,000 per unit by utilizing 3D printing to build the mounts. Today, it is even possible to print lower receivers for AR-15s that are completely compatible with traditionally manufactured AR-15 parts. While parts currently take far too long to be printed in the heat of combat, as technology improves we may see soldiers capable of printing equipment in the battlefield or even the development of 3D printing repairs systems for military vehicles.

Healthcare and Medicine

Some of the most impressive and mind-blowing applications of 3D printers are already being utilized in the healthcare industry. Prosthetic limbs are being created and embellished with 3D printing, as the small scale manufacturing process is perfectly suited for the one-off manufacturing of a limb. Since prosthetics must be perfectly matched to a person’s body and require strong but lightweight materials, 3D printing is a perfect match. For children who are missing limbs, 3D printing offers an easy way to update the limb as the child grows so that they have a prosthetic that matches their current body as they move towards adulthood.

While it will probably be some years before 3D printing finds widespread use in the healthcare community, some current developments seem like science fiction. The Wake Forest institute for Regenerative Medicine has developed a process in which a patients cells are cultured and used to print new tissue and organs. In the future, this could reduce stress on an overburdened organ donation waiting list. While it is by no means a common practice, the existence of this technology suggests that one day we may even see complex printed organs and even microscale cellular printing.

In-Home Printing

There was a time that printing at home seemed impossible or far-fetched, and yet printers became common consumer products in just a few short decades. As the price of 3D printers drops, more and more homes will be able to afford the technology and in-home manufacturing will become a reality. It is not hard to imagine a time in which toys, flatware, and car parts will be licensed and printed at home by consumers around the world. Commercially available 3D printers are already printing custom chocolates. Who knows what may be next?

About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and CEO of The Palmer Group, a consulting practice that helps Fortune 500 companies with technology, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” he covers tech and business for Good Day New York, is a regular commentator on CNN and writes a popular daily business blog. He's a bestselling author, and the creator of the popular, free online course, Generative AI for Execs. Follow @shellypalmer or visit



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