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While many people think of 3D printing as the newest and most interesting technology on the scene today, this has actually been around since Reagan was in office. Nearing 40 years old, 3D printing has come a long way since its early days – and it has a long way to go.
A Quick History of 3D Printing: How We Got to Today
The very first iteration of the 3D printer we know today was introduced to the world in 1981. Over the next decade, the technology advanced to something that was far from perfect, but still very intriguing. At the time, 3D printed materials often ended up warped – but the promise of the future kept scientists working.
In the decade of the 2000s, 3D printing was introduced to the medical community, and things like prosthetic limbs and the first bio-printed blood vessels were created. This decade was pivotal in the history of 3D printing and truly led us to where we are today.
3D Printing Today: How Big of a Foothold Does It Really Have?
In 2016, the 3D printing market grew nearly 26%, making five billion dollars by focusing on providing affordable, individual 3D printers for small businesses and home users. While the history of 3D printing was firmly rooted in medical devices, today’s enthusiasm for this technology has expanded to many other areas. For example, custom-made 3D printed toys and collectibles became a popular reward for many crowd-funded projects in the last year on platforms such as Kickstarter.
If that doesn’t impress, the WinSun 3D-printed residential building will. This company built a five-story building using a 3D printer, and then later created a completely decorated villa using only 3D printing. Construction is one of the areas where 3D printing has started gaining a much stronger foothold in the last year.
The Future of 3D Printing: Where Will 3D Printing Go Next?
Industry professionals are predicting that construction is going to be the next big thing for 3D printing, especially as metal 3D printing technology gets more precise. Another area where this technology is growing is in the automotive industry. In order to create cars that are light enough to offer higher miles per gallon, automotive manufacturers have started experimenting with the extremely lightweight 3D-printed materials that are available. This is becoming even more popular as electric cars get more popular.
But this is only the start. NASA has begun considering how to use 3D printers with edible material to create food in space using the most minimal storage possible. The medical industry continues to explore how to print organic cells and tissue, and recently introduced a method for using 3D printing to create medical stents.
The more that technology grows in other areas, the more 3D printing will continue to advance. If the growth of this technology over the 90s and 2000s taught us anything, it’s that change in this technology can come very quickly – so don’t blink!