For years now we’ve heard the rumblings of 3D printing becoming the future’s next big thing.
But in case you’ve missed some of the more unique headlines of late, the future is now.
So what is 3D printing? This type of technology relies on a computer-produced design that are loaded into 3D printers (from the size of a shoebox to the size of a large dumpster). Using those designs, 3D printing is able to produce anything from screws to automotive parts.
3D printing is increasingly spreading its wings into all segments of life — from industry and fashion to automotive and even space — and that’s why 3D printing stocks like 3D Systems (DDD) and Stratasys (SSYS) are taking off.
Check out these most amazing uses of 3D printing out there.
3D Printing Use #1: The 3D Printed Car
Made mostly via 3D printing, the Urbee 2 is in a class all its own.
This car is the brainchild of Jim Kor. Kor is hoping that in two years, his teen sons will drive the car made mostly from 3D printing across the country.
His hopes that will make a 3D printing splash in the automotive market.
3D Printing Use #2: 3D Printed Food
Two startups are doing something truly unique with 3D printing — trying to bring 3D printed food to the masses.
While the idea is to create designs on some — think chocolates or pastries — 3D printing can also be used to shape pastas and create the perfect hamburger patties.
The Cornell Creative Machines Lab — part of Cornell University researching 3D printing — and Barcelona-based Natural Machines are the two startups leading this 3D printing movement.
3D Printing Use #3: 3D Printed Jewelry
Since 3D printing offers custom designs and gem-studded creations that wow even the most skeptical eyes, 3D jewelry has taken off.
In fact, stores are already adding the products to their display cases. Neiman Marcus offers a $300 necklace and a nearly $400 sculpture made from 3D printing. The company says the products are cutting edge, but also maintain its high fashion status.
The Neiman Marcus products made from 3D printing are produced by Shapeways, and the necklace can be customized with someone’s initials. The retailer guarantees a three-week delivery time for the 3D printing products.
3D Printing Use #4: 3D Printer in Space
NASA is sending a 3D printer into space for astronauts to have on hand in all sorts of situations.
The idea is to have the printer in orbit to cut down on the equipment needed for astronauts to bring up there. The printer — which will be a hand-held size — would used 3D printing to create needed items such as tools for repairs.
“If you want to be adaptable, you have to be able to design and manufacture on the fly, and that’s where 3D printing in space comes in,” said Dave Korsmeyer, director of engineering at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, to The Associated Press.
3D Printing Use #5: Human Prosthetics
The father of the year award this year has to go to Paul McCarthy, who used 3D printing to create a prosthetic hand for his son. McCarthy’s son was born without fingers on his left hand.
For the fraction of the cost of traditional prosthetics, McCarthy used 3D printing technology to create a design that was the work of a puppeteer and special effects professional who had already helped others.
The 3D printed hand works great for his son and has fingers that can hold a pencil.
As you can see, with 3D printing, the future is now.