The wonderful world of 3D printing

2

A decade ago, 3D printers were mainly seen as massive and costly machines used by the industrial elite. Now, they have been adapted to fit on small tables at home or in offices. A growing number of individual innovators are experimenting with 3D printers, driving the technology closer to the mainstream market. This past spring, Cybera purchased two 3D Printers for our Calgary and Edmonton offices, to see how this technology could be used to benefit Alberta’s public sectors.

In recent years, the buzz around 3D printing has been growing immensely. Much of this comes from what the technology has the potential to do. However, these printers, which create physical objects from three-dimensional data, are already being used in the real world for things such as car parts, medical equipments and even artificial organs.

Dr. Anthony Atala from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine is working on the latter technology. In a 2011 TED Talks speech about 3D printing organs, he said that “90 percent of patients on transplant lists are actually waiting for a kidney. Patients are dying every day because we don’t have enough of those organs to go around.” Atala says it’s now possible to reconstruct the entire volume of a kidney from the CT scans of a patient.

3D printing has also made it possible to customize a variety of applications in the medical field. Using bio-compatible and drug-contact materials, 3D printed solutions are allowing medical manufacturers, doctors, and researchers to create replacement body parts for patients, and advance experimental work into systems that can improve the sight and hearing of patients, or the way drugs are administered.

A PwC survey of 100 industrial manufacturers revealed that two-thirds are using 3D printing, some for rapid prototyping and others for production of custom parts such as door handles or an obsolete lever.

A few months ago, the world’s first 3D printed pop-up restaurant made its debut in London. Merging food and technology for a fine dining experience, the organizers created meals composed entirely of 3D printed foods. Putting this into the bigger picture, 3D printing applications such as this could radically alter food production practices. It could potentially end world hunger and allow companies to manage resources more responsibly, as well as reduce waste – leftovers could be used to make food rather than trash.

Cybera’s staff have used the 3D printer for smaller but still practical purposes, such as creating an Apple watch stand, a custom bicycle water bottle cage, a GoPro stand, jewelry and much more products that are useful but cannot be readily found in a store. Some staff have created their own designs, while others have downloaded theirs from open source websites such as https://www.thingiverse.com/. 

There is still a lot of trial and error involved in this new technology, but Cyberans see great potential for its use in remote or rural offices, where staff are often required to tap into their inner MacGyver to find resourceful solutions to problems.

Check out our sped-up video below, where we print a Coffin's Cube!