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5 Surprising Items That Can Be 3D Printed

Sarah Venning
3d printed human heart additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing has become more and more prominent in the manufacturing sphere, moving at a faster pace than perhaps any other production method. Additive manufacturing and 3D printing has gone from being a novelty to a necessity in a very short span of time and the scope of items which can be produced via additive manufacturing is ever increasing.

Now a fixture within a number of industries, additive manufacturing is most commonly used to create prototype parts, as well as low-volume production runs of various components. However, considerable headway is being made within the field, meaning that a number of interesting - and perhaps unusual - designs are being created via 3D printing.

Thanks to its ability to create intricate shapes, 3D printing is now being used for a number of purposes. Here are five surprising items that can be 3D printed:

Food:

READ: How 3D Printing Is Shaping The Food Industry

Somewhat surprisingly, certain food items lend themselves to 3D printing extremely well. As 3D printing uses material extruded through a nozzle to create different designs and shapes, ingredients such as cheese, chocolate and molten candy are great candidates for 3D printing. 3D printing is also providing pastry chefs with a revolutionary new way to create spectacular designs which would otherwise prove difficult to impossible to achieve.

In October 2019, meat was successfully 3D printed in outer space for the first time at the International Space Station.

3D printed food is also being explored for consumption by astronauts. In October 2019, meat was successfully 3D printed in outer space for the first time at the International Space Station, meaning that 3D printing could be used to improve the variety of foods available to astronauts while in orbit.

Due to the time 3D printing currently takes to complete, it is unlikely to be used within widespread commercial food production for some time to come. However, there is no telling how this could change as 3D printing technology progresses.

Nuclear Reactor Core:

READ: Will Additive Manufacturing Replace Subtractive Manufacturing?

A nuclear reactor core is one of the newest designs to be 3D printed. In an industry as safety-centric as nuclear power, progress can be incredibly slow due to the amount of testing involved, as well as the high price of any errors. Therefore, there hasn't been a lot of innovation within the nuclear power industry for quite some time - however, that could soon be about to change.

The use of 3D printing would also make the core much more efficient.

A group of scientists in the USA are currently working on a 3D printed nuclear reactor core which would allow production to take place much quicker than through traditional production methods, as well as spelling the end of the design constraints they cause. The use of 3D printing would also make the core much more efficient, bringing nuclear technology up to speed and allowing it to shed some of the outdated confinements it currently endures.

Prosthetic Limbs:

READ: Additive Manufacturing and the Medical Industry

3D printing allows for a higher degree of customisation, which makes it especially well-suited to the medical sphere. Due to the fact that healthcare and medical treatment is not a 'one-size-fits-all' solution, it is essential that patients are treated using equipment that is tailored for their individual needs. 

3D printing has given patients access to replacement limbs that precisely match their measurements.

In the realms of prosthetics, 3D printing has given patients access to replacement limbs that precisely match their measurements, allowing for a higher degree of comfort and functionality. However, the use of additive manufacturing within the medical sector doesn't stop there - it's also been used to create replacement bones, blood vessels, organs and much, much more.

Mouse Ovaries:

READ: 3D Printing Helps to Separate Conjoined Twins

No, that is not a typo - 3D printing really has been used to create mouse ovaries! In 2017, scientists surgically removed the ovaries of several female mice and replaced them with 3D printed replacement ovaries. Once the mice went on to mate, three out of the seven actually gave birth to healthy litters of young. What's more, the female mice all lactated naturally, which left little doubt as to the effectiveness of the artificial ovaries.

This incredible feat of science and engineering has opened up many possibilities for eventual human infertility treatment.

This incredible feat of science and engineering has opened up many possibilities for eventual human infertility treatment. Scientists hope that one day in the near future, they will be able to help more women conceive children naturally by 3D printing replacement ovaries. It also broadens the horizons of 3D printing's use within the medical sector, leaving many to wonder how it could shape the healthcare we receive in future.

Fashion Textiles:

Everything from trainers through to high-end couture has already been created using a 3D printer.

You may think that 3D printing textiles would be difficult - and you'd be correct. However, it is far from impossible and a few fashion designers have already used 3D printing to turn their designs into a reality. In fact, 3D printing has been on the radar of the fashion industry for quite some time, with some major brands exploring the use of 3D printing on a commercial basis. 

Everything from trainers through to high-end couture has already been created using a 3D printer. Fashion design is likely to become one of the industries that benefits most from the use of 3D printing and we're sure to see many more 3D printed designs on the catwalk in the years to come.

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About Sarah Venning

Sarah is a sales & marketing content writer, with eight years of experience within the engineering & manufacturing industry.  Working both at Qimtek and on a freelance basis, she can usually be found hammering away at a keyboard or with her head in a pile of engineering drawings. 

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