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How 3D Printing is Helping to Save the World

3D printing is changing the world for the better by revolutionizing equitable design, housing, nanotechnologies, and even food. While the actual printing process is quite simple, the real complexity lies in the endless possibilities of creation.

By Taiana Selbach


May 7, 2019

3D printing is changing the world for the better by revolutionizing equitable design, housing, nanotechnologies, and even food. The technology was first created in the 1980’s but only recently has it evolved into an effective means of creation. In order to use a 3D printer, first, you need to create a model using any 3D software. Next, upload the design to the 3D printer where it will analyze the mode. The printer then slices the model into layers that indicate where material should be deposited. Because the 3D printer works one layer at a time, the technology is also referred to as additive manufacturing. While the actual printing process is quite simple, the real complexity of 3D printing lies in the endless possibilities of creation including a vast array of material choices. This broad range versatility allows companies and designers to address once impossible problems using 3D printing.


One example of this comes from Microfabrica, a company based in Van Nuys, California.  Microfabrica has developed a highly precise 3D printing technique that’s can print metal as thin as a red blood cell. The applications for this microscopic technology are enormous, especially because our preference for tools and devices are becoming smaller and smaller. Microfabrica’s portfolio includes minimally invasive surgical tools, easy to transport aerospace parts, as well as tiny computer parts, all designed with precise detail.


Another inspiring initiative is ThisAbles, a collaboration between IKEA and non-profit organizations, Milbat and Access Israel. The project envisioned a line of products that could make IKEA’s existing products more amenable to people with special needs and disabilities. Through a highly collaborative Hackathon, they developed a collection of adapters that attach to IKEA homeware products ranging from light fixtures to shower curtains. In order to reach as many people as possible, ThisAbles has made several of their 3D product files available for download on their website which can be printed freely.

Project Milestone

On a larger scale, Project Milestone is a 3D printed housing development that’s just about to welcome their first tenants. Project Milestone is comprised of five concrete houses in the city of Eindhoven in The Netherlands. While concrete is not traditionally chosen for its aesthetics, the 3D printing technique allows concrete to withhold both precision and playful form. Concrete is also an economical material choice, which makes this technology all the more suitable for housing projects across the world.

These are just a few practical examples of how diverse and relevant the world of 3D printing really is. And based on the upward trending market, it seems as if this technology is here to stay. Though some ideas still seem farfetched (such as a vegan 3D printed steak), it’s the ability to print the imaginary to reality that make this technology so inspiring in the first place.

Taiana Selbach is a Visualization Specialist at IBI Group, specializing in physical model making, including 3D printing. She graduated from architecture school (BArch) in Brazil and holds a Visual Arts Diploma. Her background includes extensive model making experience, from concept to completion. She is passionate about making models that are elegant, relevant and unique.

Lead image by  Subhashish Panigrahi via Wikimedia Commons.

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