3D printing will transform these five industries

Early breakthroughs point to 3D advances in healthcare, aviation, retail, food, and space travel

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The 3D printing world is currently in limbo – the technology is developed enough to attract some attention in the real world, but not enough to bring about change on a substantial scale. New stories emerge everyday of 3D printing breakthroughs, be it through research or the development of actual products.

These breakthroughs tend to apply to a handful of markets, most of which have either used 3D printing in practice or have begun preparing for it. These are the five markets that will see the biggest immediate impact from 3D printing, in no particular order.

1. HEALTHCARE

The healthcare market is already moving ahead quickly with 3D printing. At the Inside 3D Printing conference in New York earlier this month, Dr. Amir Dorafshar, co-director of the Facial Transplantation Program at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine, showed some of the opportunities 3D printing has created for craniofacial surgery. Using 3D-printed materials, Dr. Dorafshar and others across the globe are providing breakthrough procedures for patients who have suffered severe head or facial trauma and infants born with abnormalities of the skull or face.

Earlier procedures for these patients involved removing bone from another part of the body and re-purposing it for areas of the skull or face that needed it. This was both imperfect and risky – bone taken from another part of the body will not fit perfectly in place where it’s needed, and the risks of undergoing such a procedure could put the patient’s life in danger.

In his presentation, Dr. Dorafshar showed how 3D printing enables surgeons to create a unique implant that accommodates each individual patient’s needs. In some cases, 3D printing let to procedures that were previously impossible.

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