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There seems to be no limit to the amazing things we can do these days with 3D printers. In the
last couple of years, the advancements in 3D printing technology have exploded and are
drastically helping progress the tech and medical industries.
From making medical supplies more cost-effective and accessible to accelerating space
exploration endeavors, 3D printers have come a long way. Developed in the mid-’90s, they have
already taken leaps and bounds to improve our lives in so many ways.

The World’s Tiniest Tugboat

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One of the most recent and absolutely amazing things scientists have accomplished with 3D
printing is making a tugboat the size of a cell. It is about one third the width of a human hair.
Crazy cool, right? The goal is to aid in our understanding of how things as small as bacteria
maneuver and swim through liquid.

As you can imagine, the applications for this type of miniature research are endless. If they can
nail down exactly how “microswimmers” move, it will also be possible to manipulate that in
vaccines or laboratory research trials.

Making Medicine Better

Due to the extremely precise nature of 3D printers, they are now being used to fabricate
prosthetics. They make it possible to seamlessly and rapidly build prosthetics that flawlessly fit
any individual. With roughly two million people in the U.S. having an amputated limb, this new
technology can be immensely helpful.

Additionally, having access to 3D printer tech can drastically decrease the cost of medical
supplies. A single set of surgical instruments is normally upwards of three thousand dollars and
hospitals require hundreds of sets annually. Now with 3D printed instruments, they are a fraction
of the cost and easily accessible.
Doctors are even trying to find a way to 3D print replacement organs. There is a growing need
for life-saving transplants in the US, with recipients waiting for years and often not receiving the
transplant they need. Though they are still mastering the process and no successful trials have
occurred just yet, they have been at it for over a decade and are hopeful there will be major breakthroughs soon.

Revolutionizing Technology

The manufacturing world will never be the same now that it’s possible to print just about
anything you can think of. 3D printers make it possible to manufacture insanely precise
components in a fraction of the time and with less waste. Everything from automobiles to
computers are on the table for a revolution. Industry leaders are excited to explore a future that
is “beyond the assembly line.”

While manufacturing here on earth is great and all, scientists are working to hone the practical
applications of 3D printers in space. Imagine being an astronaut on the I.S.S. and being able to
whip up a replacement component for a critical life support system or breakthrough research
project. It’s like something straight out of a science fiction movie. Though they are still just
exploring the wide range of uses, they have only scratched the surface.

Building the Future

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The technology behind 3D printing has gone from nonexistent to amazingly advanced in a
relatively short period of time. Imagine the phenomenal things we will be able to do in the next
decade.