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More ways to utilise that 3D printer

02 Sep 2014  | Jim O'Reilly

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Some speciality businesses have created their own solutions to the input problem. One very impressive use is the building up of dental crowns and bridges. Here, the impression the dentist creates is converted by software to a model for a crown or even a full dental plate. My dentist has the printer running in a glass case in his lobby, and clearly stands by the results.

There's a considerable hobbyist market for 3D printing. Jewellery makers can get designs printed, and even moulded in metal, by service bureaus. A variety of PC tools is available to create the design. We are just tapping in to the innovation this is unleashing, and again, more sophisticated software tools are part of the answer, while 3D scanning also has a place. We can expect 3D art to take off. Sculpture is likely to engender a sub-speciality of 3D-printed work, and this will extend to many other forms of art.

Medical sciences also have their own tools. Being able to create replacement body parts is a new and exciting area. We've seen the focus on just a few ideas, such as growing ears on substrates, but this area will expand to create replacement bones, and even major organs. This is all in its infancy, but it's a good bet that tools to ease the design task will become a sizable revenue stream.

3D printing is developing a set of task-specific infrastructures. The potential for the whole technology ecosystem is very large. Look for a rapidly evolving story.

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