3D printing has been around for more than 30 years, but the technology is still quite young. Additive manufacturing is nowhere close to where it will one day be, but despite the fact that additive manufacturing technology is only a sapling, it’s already starting to become mundane to some people. Our response to 3D printed running shoes is a resounding “finally”, rather than the more appropriate, “We’re printing wearable shoes?! This is madness!”.
But when you consider what else we’re doing with additive manufacturing, it’s easy to see why we’re not blown away by an ugly pair of running shoes. We’re doing some truly amazing with 3D printers, like printing human tissues and organs. Printing body parts is something that used to be reserved for science fiction. What’s next? Are we going to start 3D printing houses on other planets remotely from Earth?!
Well, not any time soon, but the technology is headed in the right direction.
The aeronautics and aerospace industries adopted additive manufacturing early on, and they are continuing to make the most of 3D printing. These industries are using additive manufacturing in the every step of the manufacturing process, from concept all the way to production.
Additive manufacturing provides a lot of advantages to these industries. With 3D printing, complex parts are no more expensive than simple parts. Then there’s the added strength that comes from parts that are made from one solid piece rather than several components. Not only can these parts be stronger, they can also be lighter. Additive manufacturing also allows for the use of new and unique materials that can’t be used by traditional manufacturing practices.
While these are all great advantages that benefit both aeronautics and aerospace industries, remote manufacturing might be the most exciting and most unique advantage of 3D printing. Being able to manufacture parts and structures on a 3D printer in any location could have an especially important impact in space exploration. Remote 3D printing could increase the speed of getting replacement parts, decrease the reliance on manufacturing plants, and offer more variety of supplies and more preparedness.
A company called Made in Space has built a 3D printer designed to work in zero gravity. It’s currently being used on the International Space Station, and is being controlled from Earth. While this all sounds incredibly made up, it’s quite real.
It could be a long time before we send 3D printers to other planets to establish quaint little subdivisions, but it’s an idea that’s not entirely fictional.