By the end of 2019, a fully functional stainless steel bridge will cross one of Amsterdam’s oldest and most famous canals, the Oudezijds Achterburgwal. The culmination of a four-year project, the structure was successfully 3D printed in 2018 and has been undergoing performance testing in recent months. Pioneered by Dutch company, MX3D, this project shows the potential of using multi-axis 3D printing systems to create strong, complex and yet graceful metallic structures. As this technology continues to mature, companies are expected to build similar infrastructure solutions even faster and more precisely.
Not all breakthroughs are major industrial or commercial applications. For around AED 10,000, you can now own a 3D chocolate printer and create your own delicately crafted chocolate pieces. The technology used is similar to that of 3D plastic printing, based on traditional coordinate system technology. In the UK, ChocEdge’s Choc Creator V2.0 Plus enables customers to print miniature chocolate shapes. Using CAD software, you must first translate your idea into a 3D model before the machine’s software converts the design into code that slices the model into layers, writes the printing instructions and delivers your sweet-tasting sculpture.
3 Musical Instruments
If you feel the urge to play a musical instrument, you no longer need to hunt down a music shop. In 2019, you can simply download the chosen instrument to your printer and away you go. Music and 3D printing have, to a great extent, been pioneered by one person: Swedish university professor, Olaf Diegel. He has been using 3D printing since the mid ’90s to produce a variety of instrument prototypes including a drum kit and saxophone, plus a range of guitars. In 2014, students from his institute – Lund University in Malmö – performed the world’s first concert using entirely 3D printed instruments. Fast forward to today and experiments such as these are being extended into commercial realities. Husband-and-wife team Hova Labs has created the hovalin: a functional acoustic violin, inspired by the Stradivarius. The hovalin can be produced on most standard consumer 3D printers for around AED 250 worth of materials.
4 Vegan meat
There is increasing demand for vegan alternatives to meat, driven by a variety of factors including dietary concerns, animal welfare and the environment. As these products require synthetic rather than natural production, there’s potential for numerous technologies and sciences to get involved. 3D printing is no exception. Barcelona-based Nova Meat has developed a technique to 3D print vegan ‘meat’ that duplicates the texture of beef or poultry using vegetable proteins. Unlike some other vegan meat substitutes, the product doesn’t have to be minced for use in cooking. Although the company is less than a year old, it can already 3D print 100 grams of vegan meat for around AED 11, making the product both cost competitive and technologically innovative.
Prosthetic limbs, skin, hair, even organs such as hearts: one field where 3D printing truly is making headlines is medicine. In 2019, that includes digital dentistry. Singapore-based Structo3D is developing user-friendly 3D printers to print teeth faster and more efficiently than any other product on the market. Their printers can manufacture up to 10 modelled teeth in just 30 minutes while maintaining the high-resolution required for dental equipment and mouldings. Functionality such as set up, programme functions, adjustment of materials and cleaning are now as automated as possible. This trend is emerging across 3D printing, as the industry matures from the production of one-size-fits-all solutions ¬to much more targeted results.
Fancy living in a 3D printed house? No longer just a pipe dream, this is now a genuine possibility. Last year, American firm ICON constructed what it described as ‘the first permitted 3D-printed home built in the United States’ in Austin, Texas. The company’s Chicon house took several weeks to print – a feat that’s already been eclipsed by San Francisco start-up, Apis Cor. Working with Russian home-building company PIK Group, Apis Cor constructed a 120-metre 3D printed home in less than 24 hours, all for under AED 40,000. In addition, its 3D printer can easily move from one location to another, which demonstrates that solving the technology’s logistical applications is more critical for those chasing commercial success than creating the technology itself. And, of course, price is key with ICON now charging just AED 15,000 per house.