3D printing is very quickly have a huge impact on the way things are manufactured around the world. It is a disruptive technology that many are praising will bring the next industrial revolution. The problem is that some of the most common uses for desktop 3D printers is creating pencil holders, tape dispensers and millenium falcons. Not that I have anything against Star Wars, I love Star Wars, I'm just saying that this plays into what critics say about 3D printers just being gimmicks. What is going to drive the mass adoption of 3D printing to the next level is real world applications beyond desk ornaments.
We truly believe in the potential of 3D printing to change the world for the better. Rapid prototyping and distributed manufacturing is becoming easier, cheaper and more accessible than ever. We put together a list of 6 things you can 3D print to change the world for the better. These items are much more than just desk ornaments. They have the potential to create a real difference, and by having the power to produce them on your kitchen table, these are projects that even the biggest critics have to be impressed with.
1) e-Nable Prosthetic Hand - To allow children the functions of a regular hand
What e-NABLE has done is nothing short of incredible. They have produced files for a number of hands that you can produce at a fraction of the cost of traditional prosthetics. They may not be as fancy as those seen in tech magazines, but they can be produced for around $100, and completely change someones life.
Photo credit Khalil Hamra from Associated Press
2) Stethescope - To aid doctors in diagnosing patients
A Palestein-Canadian doctor, Dr. Tarek Loubani, has created a low cost stethescope that can be made using a desktop 3D printer, and a few components you can source locally pretty much anywhere. These can be made at a fraction of the cost of traditional stethescopes, and some doctors say it is just as good.
Photo credit Drive 3D from www.drive3d.ca
3) Dog Wheelchair - To help our furry friends walk again
Some of the stories that seem to make a lot of headlines are creating custom wheelchairs for pets. By 3D printing the individual components, you can really customize the chair to fit and contour your furry friend. Also, using the various materials used in FDM printing allow the parts to have beneficial characteristics. We even had one of our friends in our local 3D printing community creating one of these custom wheelchairs right here in Calgary (shown above).
4) Micro Wind Turbine - To generate power
A search on Thingiverse reveals quite a number of different designs for wind turbines. These vary in size, shape, efficiency and how they create energy through either a generator or gravity storage. The impressive part about this is you can build one at home, and create mobile power station wherever you go. Many, such as the design from RMRD Tech, is designed to be collapsable and portable. This could be used as a tool after a disaster has struck to provide power to hard hit areas that have lost all access to power.
5) Drones - To assist with locating injured individuals after a disaster
Drones can obviously be used for many different things. Fitting the theme of this article, they can be used as a way to search a wide area for survivors after a disaster has hit. The ability to 3D print many of the components allows you to source parts locally to build your own, and design it in such a way to fit certain needs of camera equipment, or small cargo medical supplies.
6) Hydroponics - To grow food
There are many different ways to grow your food. Hydroponics is one way among many which can deliver great results. Equipment for these systems has be very costly. The incredible team at 3D Ponics has created an open source system which can be created with mostly recycled pop bottles and 3D printed components. Now you can grow your plants and/or food by using recycled and locally sourced parts, at a far lower cost than traditional systems.