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3D Printing: How it can Solve Your Problems

By Mitch

December 20th, 2023


A 3D printing nozzle and sparks
3D printing: a problem solver?

In our most recent article, "Is 3D Printing Good for the Environment?", we looked at how 3D printing could benefit the environment and ultimately be good for the planet.


This time, we're going to make another bold statement by saying that 3D printing may be able to solve your problems. We’re not suggesting that 3D printing is the answer to life’s great questions but there are certain things in life that can be helped with the use of 3D printing.


In this article we’ll be looking at some different scenarios where 3D printing has made a difference and solved problems that either didn’t appear solvable or were better served by using 3D printing.


So, let’s start by looking at how we can answer this potentially life changing question.


How can 3D Printing Solve Your Problems?


The first thing to consider is what the problem is and then to see if it has been solved by 3D printing. We may even look at some issues that have yet to be solved but that 3D printing may be ideal for. Let’s then look at some interesting scenarios.

 

 

Case Studies


1. Prosthetics


A 3D printed hand brace
Prosthetics and medical aids are now being 3D printed


The Problem


This is a major one and a great place to start with showing the power of 3D printing.


Prosthetics can make a massive difference to the quality of life for so many people and even save lives in some cases. Let’s first look at prosthetic limbs as these used to have to be hand made and were often not specifically fitted to the user. This was obviously a problem for people and could also cause great distress both physically and mentally.


The production process was also inherently slow due to the hand made nature and also an expensive one. This meant that many people either suffered for years with a poorly fitting prosthetic or indeed just didn’t have one at all.


The Solution


Of course there have been significant advances in the design and manufacture of prosthetic limbs with carbon fibre being used and custom designed items in common use. However, 3D printing has had a massive part to play in the development of these advances and a lot of that is down to prototyping. It’s much easier to 3D print a prototype of a prosthetic which can then be shaped and adjusted as required.


However, it’s not just prototyping of prosthetics that’s been helped by 3D printing. Prosthetics themselves are now being fully 3D printed. The use of plastics makes for more flexibility if needed and additives such as carbon fibre can also be included to add strength. Using 3D printing to produce prosthetic limbs is therefore a cheaper and faster process.


Then there’s the use of 3D printed prosthetic heart valves and even hearts themselves which as it develops, will be a game changer in the world of medicine. Dentistry has also gained from advancements in 3D printing with it being increasingly used to create dentures and implants.


2. Housing Shortage



A building being formed with a large 3D printer
Large machinery is used to 3D print houses and other buildings


This is fast becoming a major problem throughout the world a particularly in areas of high population and poverty rates.


The Problem


Affordable and habitable housing is becoming more and more of a problem the world over with many people either looking to rent rather than buy and of course many more not having a roof over their heads at all.


This also becomes an issue in areas of migratory displacement due to natural disaster or war and where emergency housing or temporary shelter is needed quickly.


The Solution


Yes, 3D printed houses.


This is something that we covered in our previous article "3D Printing: Not Just for Small Toys and Models" where we highlighted the advancements in the 3D printing of buildings and other structures.


There are many companies that already produce 3D printed houses that are then either assembled much like flat-pack furniture, printed in full and then put in position or printed on site. These houses can be made from plastic polymers, concrete, waste materials and even sand.


The use of waste materials and sand works particularly well in using local resources which not only cuts down on cost but also the carbon footprint from transporting materials to site.

The average cost of a 3D printed house is therefore much lower in most cases than that built using traditional methods but the process is still fairly in it’s infancy so it remains to be seen if this will be a realistic solution to the housing shortage.


3. Kitchen Implements



Several different coloured kitchen tools
Save the day by 3D printing kitchen implements!


Time for a much needed and distinct change of tone now and a slightly less noble use of 3D printing but nonetheless, a good example of how it can solve your day to day problems.


The Problem


You’re cooking a family meal for everyone and want everything to be just right. You’re also possibly a bit untidy and need everything to have a place so you can find it. All is well until you’re mid whisk of preparing beautiful souffle and the whisk breaks. Then you need to mash potatoes for the main course and the trusty potato masher that has served you well for years decides to check out. All this happens and you still have sauces to stir but nowhere to rest your spoon so you can find it again and avoid unwanted mess. Surely the only thing you can do is make the best of it and then go and buy replacements after the meal is over?

The Solution


Is of course 3D printing.


There are many premade designs that you can download online and print yourself or if you’re feeling creative, now might be the time to create that custom masher you’ve always craved! Either way, all of the items we’ve mentioned plus many, many more besides can be 3D printed.


If however you don’t own a 3D printer or aren’t confident with your design or printing skills, you could use a 3D printing service to fulfil your needs. This may seem like overkill for such seemingly mundane items but there’s no price to be put on a nice spoon rest!


Of course we’re not suggesting that you go off and print a replacement potato masher while your dinner guests wait for their meal but hopefully you get the point. An important thing to remember however is that not all 3D printing materials are food safe so you need to check this beforehand and make sure to use the right material for the job.


4. Tools and DIY



A yellow spanner, nuts and bolts on a yellow background
The nuts and bolts of it: 3D printing again


More everyday problems now but this time we’ve moved from the kitchen and into the workshop.


The Problem


Having the wrong tool for the job or in fact maybe losing a tool that you knew you had somewhere can be very frustrating.


Imagine you’ve bought a piece of furniture from a famous Scandinavian store but for some reason, you don’t have the correct hex key you need to finish your Billy bookcase. You search your toolbox but to no avail and the hardware store is closed.


Or, you know that you have most tools that you need for any one job at any time but when you come to use them, your toolbox is a mess and you just can’t find anything.


The Solution


In order to be able to finish your bookcase and fill it with books on keeping calm in a crisis and “Feng Shui for your Workshop”, you could of course 3D print a new hex key to the exact size you need. You could also go that bit further and print yourself a hex key handle to make the whole process a more comfortable experience.


Moving onto the untidy toolbox situation, if you haven’t yet got around to reading the Feng Shui book, you could 3D print a toolbox organiser insert to make sure everything has a place. Again you can go that bit further and create wall storage or hangers for your tools, the options are almost endless.


5. Miscellaneous Problems



Ice being scraped from a car windshield
Icy conditions need the use of a 3D printed scraper


Let’s finish then by looking at just a few of those niggling little problems that you might encounter day to day and see if there’s a 3D printable solution to them.


The Problems


·         Child safe home: The average home can be a dangerous place for a young child with sharp furniture corners, tempting electrical sockets and drawers and cupboards in which to trap tiny fingers

·         Lost keys: Not being able to find you keys can be a real pain when you’re in a hurry

·         Ice on the car, no scraper: A common problem in wintery conditions and often solved by judicious use of a credit card


The Solutions

·         Child safe home: 3D printing can be used to create covers for furniture corners and electrical sockets as well of course for door stops and child safe cupboard and drawer locks

·         Lost keys: Easy. 3D printed and labelled hooks!

·         Ice on the car, no scraper: Another easy solution from 3D printing but you may need to print this in two parts with the handle being ABS or a similar hard-wearing material. The actual scraper part may be better made from a softer silicone like material such as TPU.


Conclusion


We’ve looked at a number of problems and found appropriate solutions using 3D printing.


Although it’s true to say that not all of these problems can only be solved using 3D printing, it’s definitely a  medium that lends itself to multiple uses and applications. Some problems are bigger than others as we’ve seen here but given the right circumstances and a bright mind, they can be overcome using the power of 3D printing.


So, although 3D printing can’t solve all of your problems, it’ll certainly have a good go!

 

 

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