As artificial intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT dominate the headlines in 2023, other transformative technologies also promise to reshape our lives.
One of the most impactful innovations is 3D printers, machines that use computers — and can leverage AI — to build three-dimensional objects by layering together different materials.
According to a report from MarketsandMarkets™, the 3D printing market should grow to $34.5 billion by 2028, up from an estimated $15 billion in 2023. The technology will impact every sector of the economy that uses physical objects. Four of the most exciting areas are medical prosthetics, construction, surgical implants and the production of outdated parts.
Improving Construction Speed
3D printing is not just suited for crafting small parts or trinkets. Some firms such as Apis Cor use the technology to build homes, and they’re making big money to do it.
The company uses 3D printing robots to pour custom concrete walls. With this technology a construction company can build a single-family home’s walls in about five working days, which compares to the five to eight weeks usually required for the project. It can shorten the entire construction cycle by several months, enabling firms to operate more efficiently and exceed deadlines. Apis Cor’s 3D printing capability helps construction firms increase output and manage skilled labor shortages that might otherwise slow production.
Apis Cor is currently raising on StartEngine, which means anyone can invest for a limited time.
3D printing gives designers a tool to create new custom wall and home features, using an array of shapes and textures. They can also experiment with blending different materials that can reduce a home’s carbon footprint and waste.
The growing availability of 3D printing will democratize access to prosthetics to millions of people by removing cost barriers. Advanced 3D printers enable someone to create a customized prosthetic hand, leg or arm at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods. They’re portable machines, can produce on-site prosthetics and offer low maintenance costs. The machines can also create new styles of prosthetics by offering athletes custom pieces that fit a specific need within their sport.
3D printers and AI are also enabling advanced prosthetics features, including synthetic skin that can simulate touch, and new and lighter materials for future prosthetics.
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Saving Lives in Surgery
3D printers have numerous applications in the medical field. One is through custom 3D-printed surgical guides and instruments built for specific patients or to fit a surgeon’s hands. Physicians can also use 3D printer scans of patients to produce models of organs and other body parts, so they can practice surgical techniques before working with the actual patient.
The use of 3D printers for surgical implants means medical professionals can design and create customized implants that perfectly match the unique anatomy of a patient, resulting in a higher success rate and reduced risk of complications. In the coming years, more hospitals will create implants on-site, using an array of materials that best fit the need, from replacing a broken bone to aiding a hip replacement surgery.
Keeping Things on the Road or in the Sky
3D printing can keep machinery and vehicles running because it prevents parts-related obsolescence. Classic car enthusiasts increasingly use 3D printing to create custom-fit parts for their 1971 Ford Thunderbird or 1967 Chevrolet Camaro. Car manufacturers continue to expand their use of 3D printing in testing, to create parts for concept cars and to expand production capacity.
The U.S. Armed Forces are also using 3D printing to keep equipment and vehicles operational, create on-demand parts in the field and build next-generation weapons and craft such as autonomous vehicles and various prototypes.
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