3D printing creates physical objects from digital files. Its already used in every field from medicine to construction. Here are three unexpected ways that 3D printing is already being used to better the world.
Saving Rhinos from Poachers
Rhino populations all over the world are at a historic low largely due to poaching. Although declining in population, the demand for their horns remains very high, fuelling further hunting. Happily though, a San Francisco based startup, Pembient, is looking to change this.
With 3D printing, they are creating imitation rhino horns that resemble real ones. Made with cultured rhino DNA, Pembient believes that by flooding the market with enough synthetics, the price of rhino horns will fall. And this should discourage poachers. According to study by economist Frederick Chen, the availability of synthetic horns may have already contributed to a drop in price and some saved rhinos.
Imagine being able to create living matter from only a digital file. This is now possible with 3D bioprinting. To create live tissue, 3D bioprinters spray specific cell types and polymers together using multiple print nozzles. Although a number of companies have already used bio-printed organs in animals, they still haven’t been used with humans yet.
But this should soon change. A team of researchers for example has already printed a human ear. And although more complex organs such as a hearts are still some time away, professor Joel C. Glover believes that we’ll be able to transplant artificial organs to humans within five to ten years.
Printing Affordable Housing
Purchasing a house is a very expensive decision for most people, especially if they want to live in a major city. A Chinese company called WinSun however has an answer. Using a giant 3D printer they developed over twelve years, WinSun created ten 200 square meter single story homes in under 24 hours in 2014.
To do this, WinSun’s printer uses industrial waste to create panels that can then easily be put together at a construction site. Besides being environmentally friendly, their houses only cost $5,000 each. Although the technology is still maturing, WinSun’s construction work has already found its way outside of China. In 2016, the company created the world’s first 3D printed office building in Dubai.