3-D Printing for the Future


Image of my field trip souvenir!

I remember my first experience with 3-D printing as a high school field trip where our entire class was given small 3-D printed robot figures. The idea had been relatively new to me and most people at that time, even though 3-D printing had been invented many years ago.

For a few years after that experience, I’ve often seen news articles and stories about miracles that 3-D printing can perform. Back then, even though it was only about three years ago from this point, I never thought that 3-D printing could be used to create so many different objects.

Even now, as I’ve been researching through the topic of 3-D printing medial treatments, I’m still surprised at how fast 3-D printing has grown and what it may be able to do several years down the line. My biggest realization while researching about this topic is how important it is to inform yourself about the world around you.

Although I dived into this topic with a basic understanding of how 3-D printing can be used to build prosthetics, I never knew that 3-D printing could have created pills, organs and tissues, bones, and even the amazing body-exploring 3-D printed microscopic fish.

As written and portrayed in my previous PSA poster post, I believe that more people should be informed about 3-D printing’s capabilities. Not only would the attention support the researchers in creating more ways to help patients, but the patients themselves could also find ways that 3-D printing can help them. I had initially thought that the only medical use for 3-D printing was to create prosthetics, but I quickly learned through some basic research that 3-D printing was capable of so much more.

Not only did I find incredible discoveries and developments as listed above during my research, but I was also able to see the community that revolved around 3-D printing. From the community, I could see the incredible people from all over the world who were creating 3-D printing advancements, what their purpose and worries were, and what solutions they came up with. Other people who were interested and worried about how 3-D printing would affect society had also input their own constructive criticism on 3-D printing development.

Overall, I believe that it is important for us to be aware of the news and developments, especially regarding 3-D printing, in our society. The technology has grown tremendously over the past few years, and from many people’s views, will grow even faster in the future. As it becomes a larger part of our society, it is important for us to pay attention to and understand the themes behind 3-D printing.

What Can 3-D Printing Do For You?


My poster is meant to inform and give the resources that people with medical issues can use to learn more about and find out if 3-D printing can help them.

My main focus when creating this poster was to be able to induce a feeling of hope for the audience viewing the poster. I used an image of a Nigerian girl with a 3-D printed prosthetic leg that appears to be standing comfortably and confidently. I wanted to show that the viewer of the poster could also recover and be as healthy as the girl in the picture.

I also wanted to show that, in comparison to other medical procedures or treatments, 3-D health developments can be much cheaper and accessible. By using a young Nigerian girl, which may appear to be a less privileged individual, the poster shows that these treatments can be accessible to a much wider range of people.

I also hoped to illustrate a feeling of “hope” in my poster by using a soft, bright yellow as the background color. The background then closes in on the image, which is an attempt to appear sort of like a circular window towards something within the audience’s reach.

Another point I wanted to make in this poster is to add a sense of movement towards a better future for the viewer. The image of the girl shows her taking a step forward, which may show the audience that they can also take their own initiative to find out more about how 3-D may be able to improve their lives.

I also added a sense of movement in the background colors by adding a gradient of yellow to white, which not only shows a progress towards something brighter, but may also lead the viewer’s  eyes towards a link to my website where they can take that first step.

Since 3-D printing also focuses on being extremely customizable, I wanted my poster to be relatable to the audience. In the photograph of the girl, the bottom of her prosthetic leg looks almost like her own skin tone. This shows that 3-D printing can be much more flexible in terms of customizability for an individual.

The text, “what can 3-D printing do for you?” also adds to the feeling of personalization. By ending the phrase with the word “you,” I hoped to stress that the poster is talking directly to and about the viewer. I also used colors from the girl’s dress to choose the color of the font in order to connect the idea between the phrase and an example of a patient.

I also focused on making sure the poster looked gentle. In order to do this, I used pastel yellow and white for the background, used round font, and rounded of the edge of my image to show that there is nothing harmful or “sharp” in what may be their first impression on 3-D medical help. I wanted to show, especially for a targeted audience of people suffering from medical issues, that 3-D printing can be safe and beneficial.

Overall, I wanted my audience to feel inclined and comfortable to find out more about what 3-D printing can do for them. 3-D printing has many benefits that, surprisingly, many people do not know much about. I hope that by making the topic appear safe, simple, and approachable, people can research more about, support, and use 3-D printing technology to their advantage.

Girl in poster: https://www.flickr.com/photos/71041967@N02/16250129319/in/photostream/

3-D Printing Is Greener Manufacturing

After looking at both sides of the argument on whether 3-D printing is more or less environmentally friendly, I believe that if we use 3-D printing responsibly, it will be more environmentally friendly than traditional manufacturing methods.

3-D printing greatly reduces the amount of transportation pollution, which is extremely important considering, “[transport] is claimed to consume 60% of the world’s oil and produces a quarter of all energy-related CO2 emissions.” Having an accessible manufacturing tool would be helpful in reducing the amount of gas consumed and emissions released from transportation, especially since it’s one of the leading causes of climate change.

People may also argue that 3-D printing is not as efficient in using materials as it seems. They believe that 3-D printing uses more plastics and may even cause the population to have a reliance in plastic materials. However, most of the plastics that 3-D printers use are recycled materials. Many companies are also aware of how 3-D printers may waste materials and are actively developing ways to turn the wasted material back into 3-D printer “ink.”

3-D printing is also and indispensable tool to further the development of greener technology. Like the example above about 3-D print waste, companies, researchers, and individuals are aware and innovating ways to improve 3-D printing to make it more environmentally friendly and less wasteful. Some of the old manufacturing methods have been created from a past where global warming wasn’t a large issue, and does consider how it impacts the environment. 3-D printing is a great way for people to start thinking about new ways to manufacture objects with a smaller carbon footprint.

As said in a previous post, 3-D printing is also much more environmentally friendly because it reduces the amount of pollution caused by manufacturing. Although 3-D printing may release its own fumes, it is nothing compared to the amount of air pollution that we see coming from large factories. Since people may also argue that 3-D printing is usually done near homes or workplaces, we should make sure to keep 3-D printing safely controlled but accessible.

Controlled yet accessible is the key to making 3-D printing a successful and useful manufacturing tool. We can see that it has its faults such as releasing fumes near living spaces, but their harms can easily be controlled by taking safety precautions. Many people are also aware of these issues and are progressively creating and thinking of ways to make 3-D printing safer and more environmentally friendly.

3-D printing has its ups and downs, but it is a tool that we cannot afford to stop using. It has helped save peoples lives and improve their health, and we should continue researching ways that i can be used to treat patients. People may still argue that 3-D printing can be more harmful to the environment and to us, but that’s exactly why controlling and innovating ways to improve 3-D printing is extremely important.

3-D Printing Negatively Impacts The Environment

Previous posts have looked into several ways that 3-D printing can benefit our society. While 3-D printing continues to develop ways to help treat patients and improve our health, we must also consider the negative impacts of 3-D printing, especially on the environment.

People who are skeptical of 3-D printing’s impact believe that 3-D printing is a less eco-friendly process to manufacture objects.

Environmental advocates argue that 3-D printing consumes more resources than regular manufacturing would. Although 3-D printing may seem to be a greener process, scientists have found that it consumes a large amount of electricity. An article explains that, “Research at Loughborough University … learned that 3-D printers that use heat or a laser to melt plastic consumed an estimated 50 to 100 times more electrical energy than injection molding to make an object of the same weight.” We can see clearly from this project that 3-D printing can potentially be much, even 50 to 100 times, more wasteful of energy than traditional manufacturing methods.

Environmentalists also argue that 3-D printing relies too heavily on plastics. The article also explains that, “industrial-grade-plastic 3-D printers that use powdered or molten polymers leave behind a substantial amount of unused raw material in the print bed.” Not only are many 3-D printed objects made out of plastics, which is already harmful to the environment, but 3-D printing actually uses these plastics less efficiently than older manufacturing processes.

The advocates also refute that although companies have been creating eco-friendly materials that are biodegradable, they will still be harmful to the environment. The biodegradable materials would take several years before they are returned to the earth, and recyclable materials do not solve the problem of society’s reliance on plastics.

Another concern about 3-D printing are the fumes that the printer releases during its process. 3-D printing may seem to release less pollution than factories would, but 3-D fumes may actually be more harmful to us. The article explains that research, “suggests that secondhand printing fumes contain toxic byproducts given off when plastic is heated to high temperatures.” According to the Health Effects Institute, these fumes have been observed to cause, “lung function changes, airway inflammation, enhanced allergic responses, … altered heart rate …” 3-D printed medical treatments may be able to help save lives, but what if 3-D printers are what puts them in danger in the first place? Not to mention, as opposed to factories, these printers are often used in places such as our own homes or workplaces.

Overall, there seems to be many valid concerns on why 3-D printing may be even more wasteful than traditional manufacturing processes. While we think about whether or no 3-D printing will be beneficial for society, we should also consider the effects it has on our environment and how it will affect our health as individuals, and either control or improve the way that 3-D printing is being used.

The Future of Eco-Friendly Manufacturing

From many previous posts, you can see that 3-D printing can be very beneficial to our society. Many people, however, argue whether it is more or less harmful to our environment. Although 3-D printing has been shown to be able to create objects that can enhance people’s well-being, it is also important to question if it affects our environment negatively or positively, a factor that will ultimately affect our own health.

Advocates of 3-D printing believe that 3-D printing is a more eco-friendly process to manufacture objects because it uses energy and resources more efficiently.

3-D printing allows people to create objects without having to use several parts, which reduces the amount of space, material, and emissions that additional machinery may take. A quote from 3D Systems explains that, “By its very nature 3D printing and additive manufacturing create products, parts and assemblies one layer at a time using only the necessary amount of material required for each process with near zero waste in an energy efficient process.” Instead of putting together several parts to create an object, a 3-D printer is capable of simply creating any object from top-to-bottom.

In addition to this, because a 3-D printer does not require the use of several parts, it also reduces the amount of emissions created from transportation. 3D Systems explains that 3-D printing, “eliminates waste, expensive transportation and costly tooling required by traditional processes.” Rather than having to purchase and deliver parts from different manufacturers, 3-D printer users can manufacture a whole object themselves.

Because of the accessibility and ease of creating a single object, 3-D printing can also be done on-demand at the location it is needed. This not only continues to reduce the amount of transportation pollution, but also reduces the space and resources needed to store objects that are manufactured elsewhere.

3-D printer advocates also argue that 3-D printing tends to use more eco-friendly materials for their manufacturing.

Many companies, such as XYZPrinting have developed many different options for eco-friendly printing materials. An article explains that XYZPrinting have, “released a new line of new PLA filaments as well as refillable ABS filament cartridges for their devices which provide a biodegradable option.”

The article also states that, “The company’s ABS filament cartridges can now also be refilled as well, and that allows 3D printer operators to minimize the environmental impact … on the purchase of new cartridges in the process.” Because 3-D printing is fairly new technology, many developers are more conscious of the environmental factors of manufacturing, and are taking steps to create more eco-friendly materials. 3-D printing is not only using greener materials, but is also a new technology where more people will pay attention to small ways they can help the environment.

Supporters and users of 3-D printing believe that it is less harmful to the environment. They argue that it has many benefits such as being able to produce objects more accessibly and closer to where they are needed. 3-D printers are also flexible manufacturers, and are able to use a variety of recycled and eco-friendly materials. 3-D printing can be used in a variety of ways that is more efficient than regular manufacturing and we should expand, develop, and take advantage of it in order to be able to continue manufacturing objects in a less wasteful way.

3-D Printing: Who Holds The Power?

3-D printing is becoming more widespread and used by both large corporations and smaller companies and organizations.

Unsurprisingly, large companies such as Amazon and Walmart are creating ways for their consumers to customize their products with 3-D printing. These companies seem to focus only on selling 3-D printed objects as a novelty.

Other large companies, however, such as Adobe and Autodesk are accommodating the increase in popularity of 3-D printing by developing new 3-D print software that can help users design and engineer their own products. With companies such as these, 3-D print design can be much more accessible professionally.

Companies such as Intel and HP are also creating more accessible hardware such as 3-D printers or computers made especially to scan and create 3-D designs.

However, the people who seem to be using 3-D printing to make new products seem to be small companies. While researching, I found that most innovative creations were made by small startup businesses or educational institutions.

For example, a previous post talked about how researchers from the University of California San Diego used 3-D printing to develop medical microfish that can treat toxins. Several other educational and research institutions all over the world, such as the National Pingtung University in Taiwan have developed 3-D printed prosthetics for animals.

Many of the 3-D printed innovations are still mainly done by small businesses. Some examples of these companies include Open Bionics, which focus on developing, “affordable, and open source 3D printed bionic hands for amputees.” Another company, DigiFabster, creates a way to organize 3-D print manufacturing by managing data in the cloud.

Other small companies rely on crowdfunding in order to start their businesses. Solido3D plans on creating a product named OLO, a small device that allows people to use their smartphones as 3-D printers.

Dully Katzeff, both a designer and a mother, is also using crowdfunding as a way to develop a 3-D printed pill coater. Katzeff decided to create the pill coater as a response to her own child’s reluctance to consume pills.

The overall trend seems to show that large companies are mostly involved in creating the software and hardware that are needed to create new 3-D printed products. The small businesses and startups are the ones using these tools to customize and create products that they, and others in their community that help fund their product, need.

In my opinion, this hierarchy seems like it could be beneficial to both the public and the economy. Large corporations seem to focus on creating 3-D print tools, allowing small businesses to create their own 3-D printed products.

Crowdfunded companies can only start when people believes there is a use for their product, meaning that their products are sure to be useful to the public.

While large corporations and research institutions help to further the development of 3-D printing, entrepreneurs could use the flexible manufacturing tool to create businesses, products, and jobs that could help the economy.

3-D Printed Microscopic Fish – How Will It Shape Healthcare?

Researchers from the University of California San Diego have recently developed 3-D printed “microfish” that are injected into human bodies for medical treatment.

We’ve all seen old episodes of cartoons where characters shrink and explore the interior human body, but once it becomes a reality, how will it affect both healthcare companies and their patients?

An article reports that the two professors – Shoachen Chen and Joseph Wang – have developed a 3-D printed microfish that can swim around and detect toxins in the human body.

Chen and Wang had “recognized that most microrobots that have already been produced are unable to perform more advanced tasks due to their simply-shaped designs and inorganic physical make-ups.” Because of this, the two researchers have developed micro-robots in shapes of fish – organisms that live and function in fluids.

The researchers designed the head of the fish to contain iron oxide nanoparticles – which is used to steer the fish magnetically – while the tail end contains platinum nanoparticles, which react to hydrogen peroxide to drive the fish forward. The researchers use these movement methods to maneuver the microfish into hard-to-reach places in the body.

Inside the body, the fish have the ability to sense and detoxify toxins – such as bee venom – found in the body. The researchers also hope to develop a way where the fish can be used to deliver drugs to different parts of the body.

The microfish are said to have, “the width of a single strand of human hair,” and with the help of a special 3-D printing developed by Chen – microscale continuous optical printing – can be produced as fast as several hundereds within a second. The article explains that it functions so efficiently because it contains a, “digital micromirroring array device chip, containing millions of micromirrors that function separately from one another.”

I feel like this technology, with further development, could greatly affect how patients are treated, and may even affect how the healthcare system may function in the future. These microfish – which can already identify toxins in the body – could potentially detect other unwanted substances in the body such as viruses, bacteria, and maybe even cancer cells.

A drug delivery system could also greatly enhance how drugs or other substances such as vitamins are absorbed by the body, allowing greater use of resources that may be expensive or limited.

Even the presence of these microfish in general may be able to quickly tell us if there’s something wrong happening in our bodies that we cannot regularly detect from symptoms alone. Why visit a doctor 4 times a year for a checkup when a fish could just tell you if there’s something wrong?

Chen’s printer allows the researchers to print millions of the fish at a time, which could make the microfish greatly accessible to people all over the world that cannot or do not have the privilege of frequently visiting a doctor. Their printing methods could also open up new possibilities for more efficient manufacturing.

These are all only ideas from the top of my head, but from a researchers point of view, there could be even more things that these microfish could be developed to do. Though I haven’t heard these news until today, I believe this is something that many of us should be aware of as a way to both support these researchers, but also see what these fish can do for us.