3D printing technology has evolved so rapidly that it seems that you can print nearly anything and it will function. This list is merely a sampling of the coolest things 3D printers are capable of making.
RepRap dared to dream of a world where 3D printers would self-replicate. After years of research, they managed to get the process to the point where their custom printer would create all but a few of the pieces needed to print another version of their printer. Though revolutionary at the time, the emergence of the commercial printer market and its constantly dropping prices meant that RepRap’s commercial possibilities fell to the wayside.
While it doesn’t sound very comfortable, at least one retailer has proven that it’s possible (and expensive) to print beachwear. Made to order, Continuum Fashion uses small plates and springs to create mesh-like articles. A far cry from sunglasses and shoes, a more popular 3D printing choice, but it could catch on.
Various car bodies and frames have been created with 3d printing, but where it really shines is in race cars. It’s not just an impressive feat: The plastic materials involved help to make the vehicle faster overall.
As in, actual edible meat for humans. Modern Meadow has been working away at utilizing the technology to feed people while minimizing the environmental impact that comes with producing meat.
At first, you wouldn’t think a 3D printed gun would be of much use. Early designs broke after firing a few rounds. But the method has since been improved to the point where people can create auto and semi-auto guns with the devices. However, depending on where you live doing so could be illegal.
Though it isn’t entirely 3D printed (the bulk of it was printed in small pieces that were assembled on-site, and the building itself is partially constructed with traditional materials), it’s still impressive. The Winsun Group isn’t the first to print a building, but this one stands tall at five stories.
3D printing has proven itself great for creating replicas, but when it comes to highly precise items like musical instruments the process can make the real deal, too. Acoustic guitars are a popular choice, but violins and flutes have been made as well.
The process of printing a liver and other organs may soon solve the problem of organ shortages for medical use. Using stem cells from the intended patient, the process can create functioning tissue to recreate organs with strong odds of not being rejected by the host.
Keeping things in the medical field for a moment, let’s talk about prosthetic limbs. It’s not surprising that an early medical use for 3D printing was to create prosthetic limbs customized for each individual patient’s needs.
But what is surprising is RoboHand, a fully functioning and articulate hand designed for those without fingers. RoboHand is capable of holding and gripping objects with the same full range of motion as an actual hand.
The Smithsonian Institute has been testing a program called X 3D since 2013. X 3D allows web users to see select items from the SI collection in full 3D, allowing those who can’t visit to inspect the items from all angles.
It also allows users to print the items they are viewing, which allows visitors to own replicas of history (very cool) and researchers to have access to the items without having to actually move or otherwise inspect the original, helping to better preserve it.