3D printing is fast becoming one of the most useful tools ever developed by humans. The technique can be used to print pretty much anything from food to new body parts.
3D printers can also be used to print novelty items, tools, weapons and even buildings. The technology has already had a huge impact on the modern world and is set to become ever more important in many industries of the future.
In most cases, the only real limitation to what can be 3D printed is our imagination, as these 15 amazing 3D printed objects testify to.
The following list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order.
1. These buildings are some of the most impressive 3D projects around
These five story buildings are not printed as one unit but are made from separate 3D printed sections assembled on site. They were produced by a company called Winsun (though the IP might actually belong to Contour Crafting) which has printed a variety of buildings from mansions to offices.
The 3D printed structures, once assembled, are finished using more conventional buildings techniques. According to Winsun's website, the firm has developed a special continuous 3D printing process which they used to produce no less than 10 houses in 2013 - an accomplishment that has received much global praise.
They use a special ink composed of cement, sand, and fiber as well as a proprietary additive. The printing process takes place at their Suzhou plant in China.
2. These 3D mini power tools actually work
Created by a one-man 3D printing legend, these 3D printed miniaturized power tools are awesome. And the best part is that they actually work - although using them for any DIY tasks might be beyond their design limits.
This creator decided to make a tiny working power saw after receiving much praise for his first creation, a tiny power drill. Lance Abernethy decided to design his mini 3D printed drill an equally mini 3D printed saw companion.
"It [the saw] was just a natural progression from the miniature drill. I like to make and create things. Using power tools and 3D printers help me bring those things to life." Lance told The Daily Mini.
3. Functional 3D printed prosthetics based on video games
The age of the bionic humans is finally here and it is 3D printed. Specialists in low-cost prosthetics Open Bionics have partnered with video game developers Eidos Montréal to produce Deus Ex 3D printed arm prosthetic covers.
At less than 150 grams, these covers for Open Bionic's custom-built Hero Arms prosthetics are engineered to be "super lightweight and very slick." The Hero Arm was already the most affordable multi-grip bionic arm ever created and its new 3D boost has only made it better. We can't wait to see what the technology will do for the industry in the future.
4. Bored of your organic mandible? Why not replace it with a 3D printed version
A company called Xilloc has produced the "world's first 3D printed total jaw reconstruction". The firm claims that each artificial jaw is fully customized to customers' unique physiologies and boasts the successful implantation of a mandible in an 83-year old patient with a serious jaw infection.
The patient received immediate relief from pain (apart from the after-effects of the operation of course) and regained the use of their jaw. The jaw was made from powdered metal and appears to have been a complete success.
“The introduction of printed implants can be compared to man’s first venture on the moon: a cautious, but firm step,” says Professor Jules Poukens of BIOMED.
5. This 3D print company is a one-stop shop for every narcissist
A United States based company, Beheld, have produced a means of 3D printing mini figurines of yourself (or loved ones of course). The company was founded by Kat Kinkead (an industrial designer) and Peter Weijmarshausen, the former CEO of Shapeways.
Subjects enter a booth sized scanner, strike a pose, and are digitally modeled prior to printing. The total cost is a paltry $40 but of course, this excludes the cost of travel to their site.
To combat this they plan to put booth's in malls and other public spaces to tap a potentially lucrative market.
6. This Arabesque-inspired 3D art piece is a sight to behold
Two artists, architects, programmers and professors, Benjamin Dillenburger and Michael Hansmeyer, have developed a way to design and 3D print Arabesque inspired art installations. Their technique called Digital Grotesque features algorithmically generated geometrically beautiful works of art.
Each work can function in isolation but all joined forces to produce the architects' incredible "Arabesque Wall" masterpiece. The amazing 3D printed artwork consumed over 5 tons of sandstone and features no less than 200 million surfaces.
The entire project took 4 months to develop, 4 days to fabricate and 4 hours to assemble. The end result saw twelve component sections packed together into one formidable piece.
7. You won't believe how small these crazy 3D printed sculptures are
Jonty Hurwitz teamed up with the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Institute of Microstructure Technology at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology to make, possibly, the smallest sculptures ever made. Theimage below (with a needle's eye for scale) illustrates how absolutely incredible their 3D printed feat was.
The models are so minuscule you would be forgiven for mistaking them for specks of dust, but rest assured they were indeed fully designed micro-figurines. You might have noticed our use of the past-tense here and it's for a reason - the models were actually lost (unsurprisingly given their size).
8. Berkeley researchers can now 3D print a liquid inside another liquid
Researchers at the University of Berkeley have managed to develop a technique that allows them to print one liquid into another to create stunning fluid 3D structures. The team, at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory, believes this could be the first step to making liquid electronics.
The technology could lead to a revolution in stretchable devices once refined. Incredibly, these first structures were created with nothing more than an off-the-shelf 3D printer with a modified syringe to inject small amounts of water into silicone oil.
The future technical applications aside, the result is a truly mesmerizing example of a 3D printed product.
9. These weird 3D models can actually change shape under specific conditions
Dartmouth College has successfully developed a way to make 3D models change their size and color under different environmental conditions. Rather than innovating 3D printers, Dartmouth researchers have instead focused on developing a special kind of morphing ink that can alter its physical properties.
Chenfeng Ke, an assistant professor of chemistry at Dartmouth said:-
"This technique gives life to 3D-printed objects. While many 3D-printed structures are just shapes that don't reflect the molecular properties of the material, these inks bring functional molecules to the 3D printing world. We can now print smart objects for a variety of uses."
10. This company lets you hold and touch your unborn baby
A Russian company, Embryo 3D, has developed a way to 3D print your unborn child. Using prenatal images, they are able to reproduce your future "little monster" into a fireplace ornament.
The company employs full scans taken by medical professionals to produce high-quality 3D prints made from plastic and heavy-duty plaster. They also offer the option, at an additional cost of course, of recreating your future progeny as a precious metal keepsake.
Company founder, Ivin Gridin, explained that he stumbled upon the idea by speaking with expectant parents who wished they could convert scans of their unborn children into tangible, holdable objects.
11. Robots could soon have 3D printed skin as good as real skin
Researchers at the University of Minnesota are studying possible means of 3D printing stretchable synthetic skin for robots. This new 'skin' is embedded with an array of electronic sensors that act in a fashion similar to human, or animal, skin.
Although in its infancy, the technology is theoretically scalable to enable the new artificial skin to accommodate many different sensors that could allow androids or other robots to actually 'feel' like humans do.
To achieve this, the team built a custom one-of-a-kind 3D printer that has four nozzles each with its own reservoir of ink capable of creating different electronic parts on a base of silicone. The new technique could play a vital role in the future of bionics.
12. This 3D food printing restaurant in London was the world's first of its kind
This London based restaurant has gone down in history as being the first ever 3D food printing establishment in the world. The pop-up called Food Ink opened for just 3 days back in 2016 but its brief launch has never been forgotten.
The company used 3D printers supplied by the Dutch Company byFlow that allowed the 'restaurant' to create a wide range of dishes made from hummus, chocolate, peas, dough, and cheese. The company took 3D printing very seriously and not only 3D print its food but also its furniture and all accessories.
"Food Ink is a one-of-a-kind gourmet experience in which all the food, all the utensils and all the furniture are completely produced through 3D-printing in an immersive futuristic space. We are a conceptual pop-up dinner series where fine cuisine meets art, philosophy and tomorrow’s technologies." - Food Ink
13. NASA's 'Space Fabric' is one of coolest things ever 3D printed
NASA recently announced their highly advanced fabric that could have many space-related applications. Developed by their Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL-Caltech) the fabric consists of small silver squares that are printed in one piece instead of sewn together.
This newfangled fabric has some interesting properties that include enhanced reflectivity, passive heat management, foldability, and tensile strength. Once perfected, it could have applications in large antennas and other deployable devices as it can fold according to requirements and quickly shift back into shape.
The material is also envisaged to potentially act as a cover to shield spaceships from meteorites or for capturing objects on another planet's surface. Good stuff!
14. This 3D printed "hyperelastic bone'" helps injuries heal faster
When humans break their bones the healing process can be a very slow and painful one. Although current methods do exist to help speed up this natural progression a bit (autografts or synthetic scaffolds), this 3D printed solution offers unprecedented support.
Researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois have developed a new kind of 3D printed scaffold made from hydroxyapatite, a mineral found in bone, with polycaprolactone, a biocompatible polymer. Unlike more traditional scaffolds, which are either too brittle or provoke an immune response in patients, this "hyperelastic bone" version is inert as well as strong and flexible at the same time.
15. This student created the world's first working 3D printed dishwasher
Back in 2015 a Swedish student decided to develop an awesome 3D labor-saving device to help him with dishwashing. By combining age-old engineering principles with ultra-modern 3D printing techniques, he conceived of a "dishwasher" that is both elegant and practical.
Filip Sjöö used his CAD skills in Solidworks 3D and a little knowledge on 3D printing plastics to create a cogged device that relies on the flow of water from your tap for energy. The device converts the rotational force provided by a water wheel to generate a linear motion that drives a scrubbing brush to clean the dishes.
“I got my 3D-printer for Christmas,” Filip told 3DPrint.com. “It’s a Prusa i3, and it’s probably the best Christmas gift ever.”