The amazing world of 3D print

shoes and helmet

The amazing world of 3D print

10:05 10 February in Industry news


shoes and helmet


Every now and again a technology comes along that revolutionises the world around us, the latest of which has to be 3D print.

While not a new technology – the first 3D print patent was registered back in 1986 – use of this exciting print medium has really taken off in the last couple of years as devices have become easier to use, more reliable, costs have decreased and the type of materials available has increased. So how is 3D print changing our lives and what amazing things have been 3D printed?

Speeding up development

For business of all sizes, getting a product to market as quickly as possible is vital to success. Just think how great it would be for a manufacturer of smartphone covers to be the first to market with a cover for the latest new release from Apple? 3D print allows prototypes to be printed, tested, refined, re-printed and tested in next to no time.

When a product is being designed and feedback is required, rather than looking at a 3D drawing, putting the product in the hands of the consumer for feedback is invaluable. Clarks Shoes, for example, uses 3D printing in its design process for consumer group testing.

Product testing is also enhanced. Take a new remote control as an example. It can be printed out to ensure all the component parts fit together, there’s space for the batteries, the battery cover fits properly, it feels comfortable in the hand and so on.

Amazing examples of 3D print

The above provides a snapshot of how 3D print is revolutionising the world, but what amazing objects are being produced using 3D print technology. Here’s a selection of my favourites:


Shoulder joints, tendons and even human skin are all being produced but I really like the real-world benefits of a low-cost stethoscope being 3D printed. The inventor, Palestinian-Canadian Dr Tarek Loubani, hopes it will alleviate medical supply shortages on the Gaza Strip. The medic says his stethoscope can be made for just £1.62 – a fraction of the cost of leading brands.


Arizona-based Local Motors printed the Strati, the world’s first 3D printed car, was premiered at the International Manufacturing Technology show in Chicago in 2014 and took just 44 hours to print. The company is now looking to open up microfactories across the globe as 3D printing is easily scalable.

A lawn mower

South African engineer Hans Fouche has 3D printed a variety of interesting objects such as a vacuum cleaner, furniture and other awesome things, but probably his coolest creation is his white ABS lawn mower, which remarkably took just nine hours to print.

Fighter jet parts

Early last year, BAE Systems said that British fighter jets had flown for the first time with components made using 3D printing technology. Its engineers are making parts for four squadrons of Tornado GR4 aircraft, with the aim of saving £1.2m of maintenance and service costs over the next four years.


A team from the University of Southern California is working on a machine that is “basically scaling up 3D printing to the scale of building” by squirting out concrete in layers, while in Amsterdam, a 20-foot 3D printer called KamerMaker is printing a house as an artwork.


OK, now I’ve got your attention! The N12 from Continuum is constructed using parts made directly by 3D printing which snap together without any sewing. I’m told the nylon is beautifully functional because it is waterproof and remarkably comfortable when wet.

Formula 1

The design process that goes into F1 cars is already strongly benefiting from 3D printed technology. Most teams use this system to produce their prototypes, reaching up to 900 3D printed pieces per month. “3DP is definitely the future of F1,” an official Red Bull Racing spokesperson said. “We could get to a point where we can print out a new front wing at the track if we’ve damaged one.”

Cycling helmets

Researchers at Cardiff University are using 3D print to improve a safety helmet’s structure to stop the deformation of the helmet and transfer of energy to the head. 3D printing allows for faster and more cost-effective prototype testing.

Austin Clark

Austin Clark
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