1)What are the current and emerging 3D printing applications in the manufacturing field?
2)What are the advantages and limitations of 3D printing technology?
3) What are the larger implications of 3D printing with regard to manufacturing and the economy?
1) In the medical manufacturing field, one of the current, accessible 3d printing applications is the creation and customization of prosthetics for those with amputated limbs. An emerging application within medical manufacturing is the creation and growth of viable stem cell cultures in order to be used to differentiate into specific cell that will then grow into specific tissues.
2) Looking at 3D printing within the medical industry, one advantage of its use is that it lessens the need for animal testing during research and development. Another advantage is the possibility of reducing the amount of people waiting on the organ recipient list and shortening wait times. Concerning the limitations of 3D printing within medical manufacturing, one of the ethical issues is patient security especially concerning the misuse and/or distribution of patient information. Another disadvantage is the cost of medical-grade 3D printing since the technology is just now entering the field since it is not yet applicable enough to replace traditional, proven option.
3) In addition to all the applications that 3D printing can be used for in manufacturing, there are also economic implications that arise. One is that the widespread use of 3D printing can cut out jobs with the impact being felt more in low-wage workers in third world and developing countries. Another implication of 3D printing is that it may encourage the creation of new business models which means the creation in new ways of making money.
Book Citation: Lipson, H., & Kurman, M. (2013). Fabricated: The new world of 3D printing. Indianapolis, IN: John Wiley & Sons.