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.
Image credit: Thinkstock.
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