4 Inspirational Ways 3D Printers May Change The World

This post is by Erik Kirkland, Digital Media Lecturer at Kirklander Marketing Solutions, Canada

It would seem not so long ago 3D printers were all the rage, the next big thing, a technological wonder that was going to revolutionize the world like no other. However, the fad does seem to have died down pretty rapidly with many believing their use is limited to geeks who like to print their very own action figures.

Of course we know that these machines can do a lot more than just printing figurines, but do we truly recognize what they are capable of doing, or is it easier to associate their negative sides:

  • Energy Hogs: 100 times more energy is used to melt plastic than injection molding.
  • Air Emission: Unhealthy emission from burning plastics that effects the environment and possible health risks.
  • Plastic Reliance: Ironically the biggest movement in history is to reduce reliance on plastics, yet the most popular printing method is to print in plastic.
  • Manufacturing Impact: Traditional manufacturing such as in the car and/or aviation industries will cost jobs as printers are removing the human element from the job.

At first it would seem that 3D printers may have a negative impact of some sort, but let us be honest, for every bad that there is, you can also find a good… so let us take a look at Four Inspirational Ways 3D Printers May Change The World (for the better)

Changing The Way Rhinos Are Poached

San Fransisco based start-up Pembient have taken on the challenge to do something revolutionary… to find a true solution to saving the near extinct rhino.
printing real rhino horns
They are leveraging advances in biotechnology to fabricate wildlife products such as 3D printing rhino horns, but if you are thinking synthetic materials, then think again. The materials used are made up of powder that contain organics, metals, minerals, proteins an even rhino DNA, making it indistinguishable from the real thing.

The theory is to then give these “non real” horns to the poachers at a cost (to cover cost of printing) who then go on selling it to the Chines market at prices up to $60,000 / kg. That way poachers get the money they need to sustain their families, the rhino stays alive, and the rhino horn market eventually gets saturated!

Pretty cool concept if you ask me!

The Turtle Egg That Tracks Poachers

Yet an other sad story involving poachers, but this time we talk about a far smaller animal, in fact we talk about an animal that has not even been born yet… the stealing of turtle eggs. These prehistoric creatures are being threatened and in places like Costa Rica alone, there are four endangered species that lay their eggs on the beach. The cost of one single egg, a whopping $150.
3d turtle eggs used as tracking deviceOnce again the trusted 3D printer comes to the rescue in an effort to combat the problem. Paso Pacifico have developed the idea of printing out “fake eggs” equipping them with GSM and placing them amongst real eggs in the nest. Once poachers steal the eggs, it allows law enforcement to track their whereabouts resulting in a hefty fine and jail time… busted!

The combination of realism in the egg and with poaching mainly taking place at nights, make it very hard to distinguish the real egg from the fake and once word gets out poachers will hopefully be reluctant to taking any chances and leave those eggs alone.

Medicine & Healthcare Like No Other

Sticking to turtles, we now look how the trusted 3D printing machine comes to the rescue for yet an other time. In fact, it might not be long before we find one of these machines on the desk of every vet in the country.

Meet Akut-3, a loggerhead sea turtle who had been struck in the side of his jaw with a boat’s propeller and rescued by Dekamer.

3d-printed-jaw-implant-for-sea-turtleEssentially half his jaw was ripped open which would have proven fatal in the wild.

Talks with BTech Innovations who specialize in customized implants on humans commenced and a decision was made to save the creature from near certain death. A CT scan of Akut-3’s skull was taken and with 3D visualization technology a custom printed jaw and beak was made from titanium to fit the contours of the skull perfectly… we are glad to say that as far was we know, Akut-3 is swimming freely in the sea using his new mouth to maintain that massive appetite, he weight 45kg when rescued.

Self Service Dentistry

From jaws to teeth, but this time on humans.

Meet Amos Dudley, a digital design student in New Jersey who genuinely put his degree to practice. Failing to wear his braces as a kid left Amos with a crooked smile that his absolutely loathed. Now he was at college desperate to get them fix but did not have the funds to do so. Finding himself broke but yet having access to expensive college equipment triggered the thought “why don’t I create my own brace”.
creating your own braces from 3d printing
By using cheap alginate powder, he was able to get a mold of his teeth and then create a 3D laser scan that could be translated and opened by 3D software which in tern is hooked up to the 3D printer ready to print version one of the brace.

It appears the braces are doing the job and fixing his teeth all for the outrageous cost of $60. This might be an indication of how 3D may force the dental industry to come down in cost.

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  1. 1

    great write up and i must say FRESH information, really glad to know about 3d printing finding its use in the animal world too, not merely for testing but helping. I agree every process has its ups and downs, we just have to evaluate if the benefits are more. I work for a 3D printing service company and i very closely see and monitor this process. It has never stopped to fascinate me. We have done some projects for dental implants and bone joints so far but yet to achieve a lot more…

    • 2

      Have to agree.

      I too work for a 3D printing service and have to say that although I have heard about using this technology to help animals, it was still somewhat surprising to see the extent they have gone and the manner in which this technology is being used…. I mean printing real rhino horns and GPS turtle eggs (just genius)

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