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5 Ways 3D Printing is Changing the World for the Better

5 Ways 3D Printing is Changing the World for the Better
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Think 3D printers and, because of all the recent press attention, you probably think of guns. Yet, this technology really could change the world for the better.

Here are 5 ways in which that’s already starting to happen.


1.  3D Printing Saves A Child’s Life

Kaiba Gionfriddo was born with the main arteries to his heart and lungs misplaced so that they were squeezing his windpipe. This meant that he would regularly, almost on a daily basis, stop breathing and would have to be resuscitated.

Kids can grow out of this condition, but Kaiba’s situation appeared to be one of those cases where fatality was a real possibility.

Doctors working with Professor Scott Hollister, a biomedical engineer at the University of Michigan, decided to try a radical new approach.

They used a 3D printer to create a precisely engineered splint shaped like a very small vacuum cleaner hose that they then implanted in Kaiba’s chest to hold his airway open.

Three weeks after that operation, which occurred in February 2012 but was first reported on last week in the New England Journal of Medicine, Kaiba was able to come off ventilation and has so far been free of breathing difficulties.

As you will see below, the medical possibilities for 3D printing are especially abundant.


2. 3D Printers Taking Food Replicators From Star Trek to Your Living Room?

Well, maybe not in the near future but, as we’ve learned, whenever NASA invests in technology there are often benefits for us mere Earth-bound mortals.

As such, news that NASA has invested in a firm that is developing a 3D printer capable of printing pizzas for the International Space Station gets our lips smacking already.

NASA recently awarded a $125,000 grant to the Systems & Materials Research Cooperation to design a 3D printer capable of taking 30-year shelf stable foodstuffs and making pizza. The Texas-based firm has previously printed chocolate.

Obviously, we’re still a long way from printing complicated three course meals, but the potential applications for simple, nutritious food are vast.

Also, while 3D printers alone are unlikely to end world hunger, printing nutritionally enhanced food with the correct balance of sugars, complex carbohydrates, protein and key vitamins, could potentially help curb famine and certain malnutrition-related diseases.

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Image credit: Thinkstock.

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5:27PM PDT on Jun 16, 2013

Love it!

10:17PM PDT on Jun 6, 2013

It is awesome that 3-D printing is being used for good, but lets keep in mind that 3-D printing is a tool that can be used for good and bad. Unfortunately a tool in one hand can be as a helpful item, but in another hand it can be used a a hurtful item.

2:17PM PDT on Jun 4, 2013

Interesting, & potentially helpful. The only things I'd heard about 3D printers to this point were: a guy getting in trouble for making a 3D gun, saving the baby's life (how touching!), and Howard on Big Bang Theory using one to make miniature Howard & Bernadette dolls.

1:29AM PDT on Jun 3, 2013

Thank you for the excellent news. This will save so many lives. Now we must also have a cure for cancer, global warming, greed, and apathy.

11:53AM PDT on May 31, 2013


1:22AM PDT on May 31, 2013


10:40PM PDT on May 30, 2013


10:23PM PDT on May 30, 2013

I tried to print out a 3-D girlfriend, but the missus wasn't amused.

9:59PM PDT on May 30, 2013

I'm not sure it can replace Walmart etc until everyone has their own large 3D printer and steady supply of any raw materials (plastic, etc) that they could possibly need (something that doesn't sound all that efficient to me). But I can see a few shops being set up where you can order things made to specifications. They'd only need to display one of each item vs storing it all in warehouses. Of course there'd be all sorts of issues with pirating of solid goods. People could try to download blueprints for particular product designs, etc, and either use their own or a blackmarket 3D printer to create a perfect reproduction. The patent and copyright issues to come will be staggering, as will the social and economic impact.

6:33PM PDT on May 30, 2013


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