STEMpower

3D Printing as a Comprehensive Solution

Known as “additive manufacturing”, 3D printing is known as a process of forming three dimensional solid objects using a digital model.  While the earliest uses of 3D printing date back to the 1980s, its growth has been most substantial since the start of this century.  Due to technological advances and its popularity, sales of 3D printers have dropped dramatically.  With that, companies have been able to employ their uses for a variety of services.  In addition to increasing individual profits, 3D printing has also made significant contributions to advancing the progress of humanity.

One of the ways 3D printing has proved valuable is within health care.  Most recently, 2-year-old Mina Khan suffered from a defect in the ventricles of her heart.  However, with the advancement of 3D medical models, surgeons were able patch the ventricles using a custom implant.  In addition, “3D-printed medical solutions” (Dunham, 2015) have opened previously closed doors (generally due to financial burdens) for those seeking prosthetics. While a traditional transradial prosthetic can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000, 3D printers can now create customizable prosthetic hands for as little as a few hundred dollars (Dunham).

Interestingly, another use of 3D printing has been discovered with the creation of spy drones.   Using nylon through a process known as “selective laser sintering” (SLS), the drone’s pieces can be fabricated and printed within as little as 24 hours.  With this unbelievably short process from start to finish, militaries may now be equipped to respond immediately to outbreaks from remote locations, or even at sea.  While the defense industry has been employing 3D printing technology for a while (through their production of guns), building custom-made drones may become a frontrunner in terms of fund concentration and resource allocation (Dodgson, 2015).

Yet another feature of 3D printing has been found in making “soft robots”.  Typically, robots are thought of as being rigid creations, and are usually susceptible to destruction when confronted with rugged terrain.  However, 3D printing is now providing for the development of a newer kind of “soft robot”.  These soft robots, made of from a blend of rubber and plastic, were inspired by worms and starfish.  Considering the pliability of these animals, researchers were able to build a robot that could absorb impact despite terrain challenges.  This freeform creation also allowed the robot to powerfully jump about “six times its body weight” (Choi, 2015), something that the traditional robot has never been considerably capable of.  The significance of jumping is related to the ability of the newer robot to test areas that have historically proven unpredictable, such as in rescue missions, disaster scenarios, and even in space.

In November, PCS will be shipping its “Discover 3D Printing”, a perfect interactive curriculum for middle schoolers.  This product will allow students to “learn how to create more complex and imaginative models with new drawing tools, model managing methods and ideas for applying 3D printing”.  When equipping students with the information necessary to adapt to a changing global economy, it is critical that they be engaged firsthand with the tools shaping tomorrow today.

References

Dunham, S. (2015, February 23). Surgeon’s helper: 3D printing is revolutionizing health care (op-ed). Retrieved October 7, 2015, from http://www.livescience.com/49913-3d-printing-revolutionizing-health-care.html          

Dodgson, L. (2015, August 5). 3D-printed spy drones could be built at sea.  Retrieved October, 7, 2015, from http://www.livescience.com/51750-3d-printed-spy-drones.html

Choi, C. (2015, July 10). New hybrid robot has soft ‘skin’ but hard ‘guts’. Retrieved October 7, 2015, from
http://www.livescience.com/51511-hybrid-robot-soft-outside-hard-inside.html

 

By: Lindsay Reeves