Cool Real-world Examples of 3D Printing

By Rosunnara R.
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Photo Courtesy: @dwell/Twitter

Thanks to 3D printing, we can print brilliant and useful products, from homes to wedding accessories. 3D printing has evolved over time and revolutionized many businesses along the way.

This relatively new technology has disrupted the medicine, music, fashion and automotive industries — for the better. Take a look at some impressive real-world examples of 3D printing and the companies that have embraced this advanced technology.

Motorcycle

Are we living in the year 3000? The Berlin-based technology company BigRep definitely makes it look like we’re already in the future. This company is ready to change the motorcycle industry. BigRep developed the world's first 3D-printed motorcycle called NERA (and it looks amazing).

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Photo Courtesy: @BGR/Twitter

The 3D-printed e-motorcycle is fully made from scratch, from the tires to the frame. The only components that weren't printed were the electronics. Even better, BigRep plans to let its users print replacement motorcycle parts from home instead of buying pieces in stores.

Gills

What's life like under the sea? Humans may be able to know the answer sooner than we thought. Art graduate Jun Kamei created an incredible 3D-printed garment with gills called Amphibio. The amphibious gill could allow humans to breathe underwater.

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Photo Courtesy: @imperialcollege/Twitter

Kamei was inspired to create Amphibio to help humans survive if a flood occurs or if the earth becomes submerged due to rising sea levels. Amphibio is a groundbreaking invention (whatever the aquatic future may hold). Are you tempted to buy these gills?

Dresses

Fashion and design have also embraced 3D technology. Many dresses have been created thanks to 3D printing, including wedding dresses and runway dresses. Printing a gown is cheaper, easier and quicker. Now, you don't need to shop for a dress at the store anymore — you can develop one right at home!

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Photo Courtesy: @lonelyplanet/Twitter

In Shanghai, designers 3D printed intricate wedding dresses that took one week to make. These luxury gowns cost up to $3,200. Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen also featured 3D-printed dresses at a runway show. Her printed creations took the forms of a squid, an octopus and other ocean creatures.

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Bridges

Bicyclists and pedestrians can now cross on 3D-printed bridges. Some of these bridges have popped up around the world. In fact, the world's first 3D-printed bridge is located in Gemert, the Netherlands. In China, Shanghai has one of the largest 3D-printed concrete bridges on the planet, measuring 86 feet long and 11 feet wide.

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Photo Courtesy: IaaC/Wikimedia Commons

Dutch start-up MX3D plans to install a 3D-printed stainless steel bridge. Using industrial robots to print the bridge, MX3D finished the project after four years. The bridge is expected to appear in Amsterdam's red light district over the Oudezijds Achterburgwal canal.

Prosthetic Arms

Traditional prostheses are expensive, but 3D printing has the potential to put an end to that problem. In one case, college students used a 3D printer to create a prosthetic arm for six-year-old Alex Pring. The new arm only cost $350 to make, while many prosthetic arms can cost up to $40,000 each.

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Photo Courtesy: StarWarsRey/Wikimedia Commons

Thanks to 3D-printing enthusiasts, people like Pring can afford artificial body parts. In fact, a medical charity hospital in Jordan produced 3D-printed prosthetics for victims of war. For those looking for superhero-inspired prosthetics, The Hero Arm develops strong, bionic 3D-printed prosthetic arms.

Homes

Homebuilding techniques are changing. Thanks to 3D printing, homes can be built in less than 24 hours at a cost of only $4,000. Other than cheaper prices and faster construction periods, 3D printing could also help those living in poverty.

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Photo Courtesy: Tech Insider/YouTube

In fact, a housing charity company has already teamed up with a tech construction company to tackle global homelessness, and people are living in these extraordinary homes. A family from France became the world's first to live in a 3D-printed house. For those looking for luxury 3D-printed smart homes, haus.me sells homes that allow customers to live off-grid almost anywhere.

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Guitars

If you love musical instruments, you can 3D print them too. For instance, you can create all types of guitars, from acoustic to electric. Printing a guitar can be cheaper, faster and more convenient than purchasing one. Making traditional prototypes for instruments takes many hours of trial and error. However, a 3D printer can reduce the time.

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Photo Courtesy: Maurizio Pesce/Flickr

The quality is just as good as an instrument made of wood or metal. British indie rock band Klaxons performed using a printed guitar. Also, the world's first live concert with 3D-printed instruments took place in Sweden. The group printed a drum, keyboard and two guitars.

Weddings

Many couples try to find tips and tricks for saving money on their weddings. However, one bride cut costs for her special day using a 3D printer. Harnessing her love for 3D printing, Erin Winick designed and created her headband, the table numbers, the cake topper, the floral cake decorations and the flower girl’s necklace using a 3D printer.

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Photo Courtesy: @bfeld/Twitter

She also printed about 200 flowers for the bridesmaids’ and bride’s bouquets. For more than 100 hours, Winick cranked out and put together all the bouquets. Some guests had no idea she 3D-printed her wedding and thought everything was store-bought.

BMW’s Millionth Component

While 3D printing isn't new, some luxury brands support it more than others. Since 2010, BMW has adopted 3D-printing processes to manufacture car components. The automotive company reached a huge achievement by printing one million components over the course of a decade.

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Photo Courtesy: @RoadandTrack/Twitter

It all started 25 years ago when BMW began testing out the new technology. The company used 3D printing for prototypes and development at first. Eventually, it printed automotive components for mass production. Although the company has already reached a major accomplishment, BMW is just getting started with 3D printing.

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Refabricator

NASA is one step closer to turning one person's trash into another person's treasure. The space agency invented the "Refabricator," a system that takes 3D printing to a whole new level. The Refabricator lets astronauts recycle waste to create new tools while in orbit.

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With the help of the Refabricator, astronauts can stay in space longer. As of late 2019, the 3D printer remains 250 miles above us on the International Space Station. Perhaps people on Earth will be able to use this incredible technology to recycle all types of waste someday.

Wheelchair Ramps

With 3D printing, it's possible to create brilliant and useful products. For instance, German disability rights activist Raul Krauthausen designed a game-changing device. He invented a portable, 3D-printed wheelchair ramp. His prototype helps him ride up and down steps and curbs.

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Photo Courtesy: @RickHansenFdn/Twitter

Krauthausen's prototype took a lot of work and optimization. The ramp had to be big enough to allow people in wheelchairs to move up or down average-sized steps but small enough to fit conveniently in a wheelchair's pocket. He also shared his process online so others can print mini wheelchair ramps for themselves.

Shoes

This technology is also revolutionizing fashion footwear by creating custom-made shoes for better support and fit. Big fitness brands have already released 3D-printed shoes for mainstream consumption. For instance, New Balance began selling $400 3D-printed shoes in 2016. Adidas also developed futuristic shoes in 2016, but the company only gave them to Olympics-winning athletes at first.

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Photo Courtesy: @SAI/Twitter

In 2018, Adidas kicked into full gear and dropped new tech shoes to the masses for a cost of $300 a pair. Of course, Nike welcomed the trend too. The company released a 3D-printed, stretchy, water-expelling running shoe at a whopping $600.

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Cars

Dreaming about driving a 3D-printed car? Well, it’s soon to become a dream come true. Thanks to 3D printing, the automotive industry is changing. For instance, car manufacturer Bentley created the Bentley Speed 6 using state-of-the-art metal 3D-printing technology.

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Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The Blade is another example of how the industry is evolving. Made for high performance, the Blade is set to be the world's first 3D-printed supercar. Strati plans to sell the world's first 3D-printed electric car, which consists of far fewer parts than a traditional vehicle. And automotive companies aren't the only ones building cars. A father and son 3D-printed their own "Lamborghini" in 2019.

Medical Models

3D-printed medical models are groundbreaking for preoperative analysis. The new technology allows healthcare professionals to print in different colors, textures, gradients and transparencies. Doctors and surgeons who study the models learn more about human anatomy due to the prints' realism and accuracy.

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Photo Courtesy: @Berci/Twitter

A Seattle doctor saved a spleen instead of removing it by utilizing 3D printing. He practiced surgery on a printed spleen and acquired more knowledge before performing the procedure on his patient. The practice gave him confidence and helped cut the time of the surgery.

Makeup

Running low on makeup? Is your favorite lipstick discontinued? No problem. Whether it's lipstick or eyeshadow, it's possible to create cosmetics with 3D printing. One woman developed a portable makeup printer called Mink, allowing people to print at their homes, in their cars or even in their favorite coffee shops.

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Photo Courtesy: Pixabay

The co-founder of Mink, Grace Choi, says the color options are endless. Thanks to Mink, users can easily create makeup in any color using FDA-approved ink. For instance, the device can print a pink eyeshadow in less than 40 seconds. Eventually, anyone can snap a picture of a friend's makeup and print it out later. What a time to be alive.

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Coral

Coral reefs have also merged with the 3D-printing revolution, and scientists believe 3D printing may help the environment. For instance, using artificial corals could fix the damage that results from bleached corals. The 3D-printed versions of the invertebrates offer the possibility to save more than just the coral, but also other organisms.

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Photo Courtesy: @CNET/Twitter

The artificial creations can also protect coral reef inhabitants. In fact, fish have already embraced the 3D-printed coral as if it was the real thing. Researchers from Fiji used a coral skeleton and 50 iPhone images to develop effective and attractive 3D coral models.

Skin

Hold the phone. We can now print skin thanks to 3D printers, although the technology is currently only tested on animals. Dr. James Yoo created a special 3D printer that can scan the wounds of burn victims and crank out synthetic skin right into the injuries.

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Yoo successfully presented the ways the machine works on a pig. Now, the 3D skin printer is on standby for FDA approval to start testing on humans. According to Yoo, the artificial skin heals burns and wounds faster as well.

Furniture

Home decorations and technology are merging more than ever before. Can't find the right dining chairs to go with the rest of your home's décor? Instead of running to IKEA, consumers will be able to customize their furniture with 3D printing.

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Photo Courtesy: Iain Farrell/Flickr

UCL’s Design Computation Lab is one of the organizations that’s paving the way for 3D-printed furniture. UCL developed a chair printed from plastic. Design brand Nagami also partnered with famous artists to develop 3D-printed chairs, and the collaboration was revealed during Milan Design Week 2018.

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Records

Vinyl LP records are returning to the mainstream, but some are coming back as 3D-printed versions. Using a 3D printer, music lovers can get close to the real thing. The audio on the new records is low-quality, but listeners can still recognize the music.

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Photo Courtesy: @doctorow/Twitter

According to Mashable, the world's first 3D-printed record was unveiled during the 2013 SXSW festival. There are also 3D-printed record players. Lenco-MD developed the first 3D-printed modular record player in 2018, winning the best innovation award at a consumer electronics fair.

Pet Legs

3D printing can also change the lives of animals. A cute husky, Derby, was born without two front legs, so his ability to move was limited. His owner, Tara Anderson, provided him wheels for mobility, but these just weren’t the right fit.

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Photo Courtesy: @TreeHugger/Twitter

Next, Anderson made Derby 3D-printed prosthetics, and these were better tools for him. The prosthetics allowed him to run and sit just like other dogs. Thanks to 3D printing, more dogs, cats and other pets have the chance to walk and run in ways they couldn’t have before.

Food

3D-printed food may sound weird, but it can still be delicious. The ingredients are all real too. To 3D-print food, the ingredients must be puréed and fit into a syringe-like device in order to eject onto a plate. Other ingredients must be added by hand.

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Photo Courtesy: ZAGAT/YouTube

There are many benefits of 3D printing food, such as bringing complex and artistic culinary visions to life. It can also help astronauts in space to create meals and make meat more sustainable. People can 3D-print all types of food, from pizza to spaghetti.

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Keys

Locked out of the house or office? Forgot your keys? No worries. You can make a spare key with a 3D printer and always have a copy with you. "Do not duplicate" keys aren’t restricted, either. Thanks to Keysforge, you can replicate any key you want.

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Photo Courtesy: @engadget/Twitter

That's good news for people who forget or lose their keys often. However, we also have bad news: 3D-printed keys could be a thief's ticket to unlocking any building. With just a picture of a keyhole, researchers found a way to print out a working key using special software. Thankfully, the researchers aren't planning to sell their tech.

Organs

3D printing is going to brilliantly disrupt the medical industry. Believe it or not, we will be able to 3D-print solid organs eventually. Using the new technology, Organovo developed functional liver cells that survived for more than 40 days. The product is currently only for pharmaceutical testing.

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Photo Courtesy: @CBSNews/Twitter

However, researchers are one step closer to 3D-printed organs. Scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center developed model organs that bleed, feel and look like real ones. Even better, scientists at Harvard’s Wyss Institute developed 3D-printed hearts with blood vessels and beating heart tissue.

Camera

Can't afford the camera of your dreams? With the rise of 3D printing, photographers can create custom cameras for themselves. London-based photographer Paul Kohlhaussen 3D printed many components to create his dream camera. Some people have also 3D printed entire cameras, including the lenses.

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Photo Courtesy: @HYPEBEAST/Twitter

For instance, 3D modeler Amos Dudley designed and created a fully functional camera called SLO. SLO is a 35mm film camera with a "film cartridge, film path, film take-up spools, gears for rotating the spools, shutter, aperture plane, lens, film access door and a lightproof box."

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Helmets

Need protective headgear? No problem. 3D-print it! The Swiss Guards who protect the Pope at the Vatican always wear helmets, but for more than 500 years, those hard hats have been uncomfortable to wear (especially in the hot sun). The guards no longer have to worry about the uncomfortable helmets.

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Photo Courtesy: @cnni/Twitter

Now, the guards happily put on 3D-printed helmets, which come with hidden air vents and more space. The guards aren't the only ones who get to enjoy 3D-printed helmets, either. SpaceX developed a helmet that’s almost entirely 3D-printed. The sleek headwear features air-cooling components and a retracting visor.

Corneas

Millions of people around the world need surgery for new corneas due to corneal blindness or scarring. However, scientists may be one step closer to solving this problem thanks to 3D bioprinting. In early 2019, University of Newcastle researchers developed a highly advanced "human" cornea using a 3D printer.

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Photo Courtesy: @PopMech/Twitter

The study wasn't easy. The researchers analyzed a volunteer's eye to create a model. They had trouble keeping the model's rounded shape and getting ink that was the right consistency to fit in the printer's tube. Eventually, the researchers successfully created an artificial cornea that's close to a real one.

Bikes

Arevo Inc. used 3D software and technology to create the world’s first 3D-printed bicycle. The fully functional bike is made of carbon fiber. After two weeks, the company finished building the bike. Although two weeks sounds like a long time, it's quicker than the traditional, more labor-intensive process.

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Photo Courtesy: @Reuters/Twitter

The Arevo bike looks and feels like a high-end bicycle for commuting. The 3D-printed bike is also fully functional and stronger than titanium. Arevo doesn't plan to produce or sell bikes for the masses, but the company wanted to show the incredible possibilities of 3D technology.

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Weapons

Some of the most controversial creations of 3D printing are weapons, particularly guns. Defense Distributed developed the first 3D-printed firearm in 2013. Although 3D printers can work with metals, it's expensive. As a result, Defense Distributed made the firearm from plastic.

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Photo Courtesy: Vvzvlad/Wikimedia Commons

Defense Distributed released a blueprint showing people how to build a 3D-printed firearm, and it was downloaded 100,000 times in two days. Concerned for public safety, multiple states filed lawsuits to stop the information's release. Consequently, a federal judge temporarily blocked the release of the blueprint.

Bones

3D printing has transformed the medical industry in many ways. One incredible example of how 3D printing has disrupted the industry is by fixing broken bones. After a bone breaks, plates and screws are often required to hold the damaged parts together as the bone heals.

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Photo Courtesy: @Ultimaker/Twitter

Those days may soon be over. Hala Zreiqat and her team at the University of Sydney developed a 3D-printed ceramic implant. The product successfully healed broken leg bones in rabbits. Even better, the products turned into the natural bone and repaired large leg fractures in sheep. Testing the product on humans may be next.

Glasses Frames

For those who wear glasses, finding a frame that fits right is challenging. The frames may be too big, too small or too uncomfortable. Fortunately, 3D printing is creating new and improved opportunities for customized glasses frames. Now, the eyewear industry has met the 3D printing uprise.

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Photo Courtesy: HP/YouTube

Glasses wearers are also happy about the additional alternatives. Big brands like GlassesUSA have adopted 3D printing technology. Fitz Frames also allows users (both kids and adults) to create unbreakable 3D-printed glasses through an app. Some people can also print their own frames at home.

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